TORONTO – More than 600 people around the world fell victim to an alleged immigration fraud scheme run by a Toronto woman, who now faces 73 charges in an expanding investigation.
Toronto police announced fresh charges against Imelda “Mel” Fronda Saluma on Tuesday, saying her victims have allegedly been defrauded out of over $2.3 million.
“She did pray on people’s hopes to get them over here, because everybody wants to get to a better place,” said Det.-Const. Erwin Mendoza who has been working on the investigation since last fall.
The probe into Saluma’s activities began in October, after police were contacted with allegations that a large number of people had been defrauded by a Toronto-based recruiting agency dealing primarily with immigrant workers.
It was alleged that individuals, their family members and friends from other countries were recruited for jobs in Canada by the agency, identified as GoWest Jobs International.
Payment was allegedly requested so that positive documents, references and employment contracts could be provided to applicants, but police said those documents were fake.
An application would then allegedly be submitted to government agencies in the foreign countries on the victims behalf.
The applicants would then be denied entry to Canada due to the fraudulent documents submitted on their behalf and the applicant would be banned from re-applying for two years, police said.
Saluma’s alleged victims were based in Canada and six other countries, including the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Most of the victims were of Filipino descent.
“It’s pretty tough for all of the foreign applicants to come up with the applicant fees that this company was looking,” said Mendoza, adding that Saluma’s agency allegedly asked for between $1,500 to $5,000 from its victims.
Saluma, 46, is currently in custody as her case works its way through the legal system.
Police believe there may be other victims.
Anyone who thinks they may be a victim or know a victim is being asked to contact authorities.