Toronto man, Hugh Walker, found guilty in Jamaican agriculture fraud scheme

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In March 2020, a jury convicted a Toronto man, 55-year-old Hugh Walker, of fraud over $5,000, possession of proceeds of crime and uttering a forged document. The amount of the fraud was $1.8 million. In September 2020, the sentencing phase of Mr. Walker’s case took place. The Crown sought a five-year sentence and restitution of more than $1.4 million to be paid to the victim, a Kansas man, referred to by the Court as Mr. Scheckel.

The $1.4 million case

Mr. Scheckel owned a large farm in Kansas, which had an operating budget of more than $2 million annually. Between 2010 and 2012, he lent a friend, referred to by the Court as Mr.  Licktieg, about $300,000 for an agricultural deal in Jamaica, with the understanding there would be a six-month, 20 per cent return on his investment. 

When he did not receive any money, he stopped the payments. He then began receiving calls from a man named David Braum – Walker later admitted he was actually “David Braum”- who told him that he worked for the Commonwealth of the Caribbean and assured Scheckel that he could get his money back from the agricultural deal.

Between 2012 and 2015, Scheckel wired $744,036 directly from his bank account to Hugh Walker’s account in Toronto. Scheckel also had another man also wire more than $710,000 he owed to Scheckel and another $407,000 of his own money to Walker.

According to court documents, Scheckel said Braum (Walker) would repeatedly call requesting money urgently, under the guise that the deal needed to be closed timely for him to get his pay out. 

When that did not result in repayment, Scheckel began requesting meetings with Braum to find out more information about the deal and who was involved. They met a total of six times in various locations, including Toronto, Jamaica, Louisville and Kansas. After repeatedly asking Braum for identification, “Braum” showed Scheckel his passport, which had the name “Hugh Walker” on it. Walker testified that it was then that he admitted his real identity to Scheckel. 

In court, Scheckel said he kept sending money because he “was deep into the situation”. He said he became suspicious in the fall of 2014 but by the summer of 2015, he knew he had been duped and he decided to stay in it until he could hold someone accountable.

In October 2015, Scheckel came to Toronto to see Braum (Walker), who drove him to a TD bank where a well-dressed man convinced him to send more funds to “release the money”. He eventually wired the funds. 

After returning to Kansas, Scheckel decided it was time to report the fraud so he returned to Toronto and filed a report. Following their investigation, Toronto police charged Walker in January 2016.

Walker’s Defence

Walker testified he was not aware or involved in any fraud. He claimed he was a dupe and “simply let others use his bank account to receive the funds and distributed the funds minus his commission.” 

Walker testified that he opened the TD accounts in Toronto and the wire transfers were received into the accounts. Walker said Licktieg would call him and tell him how much cash to take out of the account. He said his role in this investment was to receive wire transfers and to give cash to Licktieg’s partners, “Prince and Abu”, who were located in Canada to assist with the Caribbean agricultural deal. Walker testified that he took out the cash from various bank branches and ATMs to supply to Prince and Abu but did not recall sending any money abroad.

The jury ultimately rejected this account of the events, as was reflected in their guilty verdict. The Court ultimately sentenced Walker to 46 months jail on the Fraud Over, as well as 46 months jail for money laundering and 24 months for the use of forged documents to be served concurrent with the Fraud Over Sentence. 

None of the money was recovered. As a result, the Court imposed a restitution order of $1.454 million and issued a fine in lieu of forfeiture order of $1.862 million. If Walker does not pay the fine of $1.862 million, he may have to serve a further five-year jail sentence. 

Anyone with information on Hugh Walker and where he transferred Mr. Scheckel’s $1.862 million may contact Daina Slenys at dslenys@investigationcounsel.com .

A full copy of the sentencing decision can be found here: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2020/2020onsc7029/2020onsc7029.html?searchUrlHash=AAAAAQALaHVnaCB3YWxrZXIAAAAAAQ&resultIndex=2