Quebec man Emmanuel Gweh Gbala pleads guilty in “black money fraud” scheme

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Feb. 18, 2021 – On Nov. 5, 2020, Emmanuel Gweh Gbala was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in a Montreal Court for attempting to defraud a family of $275,000. The case serves as a warning to Canadians and encourages them to protect themselves from similar scams.

In July 2018, the victims (not identified at their request) were selling their business—a family owned rest stop that included a gas station, a convenience store and a restaurant—located in Montcerf-Lytton, Que. Their asking price was $275,000 and it had been listed for sale for two years. 

Gbala and his accomplice (referred to as Mr. Bah in court documents) contacted the victims, expressing interest in buying the business. In actuality, Gbala and Bah had sized up the victims as motivated sellers who would be susceptible to a scam.

According to court documents, during their first visit, Gbala told the victims he had recently immigrated to Canada and though he wanted to buy the business, he did not have the amount of money requested. 

Gbala told the victims that he came from a wealthy family in Africa who owned land where diamond mines are located and that his father would be willing to advance him the necessary funds. Gbala further stated that, due to trouble at his country’s borders, it was difficult for him to get the money out of Africa at the time, but that it would be coming. 

“Black Money” fraud

Gbala went on to tell the victims that chemists in Africa had developed a process that allows them to color the bills with a special ink to make them look like pieces of paper. This, he said, made it easier for money to cross the border. When the funds arrived in Canada, a second product was applied to turn the paper back into dollar bills. 

Police experts advised the Court that this scam is known as a “black money” fraud. It occurs where perpetrators attempt to obtain Canadian currency from a victim by convincing them that piles of banknote-sized paper are actually a foreign currency that was dyed to avoid detection by authorities. Scam artists like Gbala then persuade their victims to purchase chemicals to remove the dye.

At Gbala’s second meeting with the victims, he “demonstrated” the process, explaining the dye product was very expensive but that it would allow him to double the value of the currency he was giving the victims. Gbala persuaded the victims to give him $101,450 to obtain the dye.

At a third meeting Gbala took possession of victim’s money and began the chemical process. During the process, Gbala feigned that something was not working properly and that he had to return to Montreal to obtain some chemical to make the process work. 

The victims began to suspect that Gbala was scamming them and told him that they wanted to travel to Montreal with him. Gbala, who then felt trapped, tried to flee in his BMW but was prevented from doing so. He then fled on foot. The victim’s money was later found in the trunk of the BMW and Gbala was identified and arrested.

Sentencing

Gbala pleaded guilty to the charges. The focus of the sentencing proceeding for Gbala’s lawyer was that a custodial sentence may result in deportation. Court documents indicate that “the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides that a conviction for an offence under an Act of Parliament, for which a term of imprisonment of more than six months is imposed, makes an applicant for Canadian residence inadmissible.” 

Gbala and his lawyers hoped that the fact that he pleaded guilty, the recovery of the financial loss by the victims and the fact that Gbala did not have a permanent record would persuade the judge to give a lighter sentence. 

Justice Mark Philippe, however, was not convinced that Gbala should be granted any leniency. Justice Philippe noted that Gbala was on charge for a similar scam at the time of the offence and had committed further, similar scams after being released from the charge of this case. Justice Mark Philippe sentenced Gbala to 15 months in prison. To review the entire decision, visit here.

The Deportation and Sentencing Leniency Debate

Canadian Fraud News will follow-up on any appeal and immigration proceedings involving Gbala. In Canada, some judges grant leniency on sentencing for fraud to permit the individual to remain in Canada under the pretense of humanitarian grounds. Other judges are squarely of the view that those who are given the privilege of obtaining residency in Canada and defraud its citizens should be expelled.

In a related story CFN published, a Justice John Douglas in PEI sentenced a man from India to six months of incarceration after he plead guilty to a $250,000 fraud in Charlottetown so that his deportation would not take place. Read the case summary here.