Canadian scammer turns himself in

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 15            April 12, 2007

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The two bedroom, two bathroom house Lafleur rented while living in Ambergris Caye.

Jean Lafleur was arrested for 35 counts of fraud in Canada where he allegedly scammed $1.6 million.

Not seen in Canada since 2005, Jean Lafleur arrived at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeu Airport via a commercial flight at around 1:00 a.m on Thursday, April 5th, 2007. Once on Canadian soil, Lafleur turned himself in to Quebec Provincial Police. Where had he been? Well since February of 2006, Lafleur had been renting a three year old, two bed room, two bathroom house with a huge wrap-around deck for $1,100 US on North Ambergris Caye (pictured above).

    Lafleur’s lawyer contacted police last week Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007 to make arrangements for the infamous ad mogul’s return to Canada. According to Canadian Police Press Officer Chantal Mackel, as soon as Lafleur heard that he was wanted, he had his lawyer call the Crown prosecutor to work the details of his surrender.

    Prior to arriving in Ambergris Caye, Belize, Lafleur had been “living the life” in San Rafael de Escazu, Costa Rica. According to reports Lafleur, along with his companion, Larry Umaña, were causing neighbors and residents sleepless nights at a condominium that he had in the otherwise sleepy suburb. Costa Ricans were relieved that Lafleur and Umaña headed out for Belize during the Christmas season of 2005, where they noted that the pair “seemed to spend a lot of time visiting Belize”.

    In Belize, Lafleur rented the house from Keith Newton of B-lease Management who stated, “He was a great tenant. I’ve been in the property management business for six years, I have 36 properties that I manage and I see all kinds of people and John was a really exceptional tenant. Paid his bills on time, kept the place clean, there was no damage when he left.”

    Lafleur was free to travel because until the warrant was issued on March 30th, 2007, he had not been charged for anything. However when he turned himself in on April 5th, 2007 and was charged for 35 fraud charges which stem from the Liberal Sponsorship Program which was created after the 1995 Quebec referendum.

    The program came into scrutiny to the point that it was the basis of a public inquiry. The Public Inquiry was told that nearly 40 per cent of the revenues reported by Jean Lafleur’s company, Lafleur Communication Marketing, between 1994 and 2001 came from the federal Public Works Department. Add in revenues from federal Crown corporations and the proportion rises to 78 per cent.

    Public Works was the department in charge of administering the $250-million sponsorship program, designed to raise the federal government’s profile in Quebec after the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

    Documents tabled at the inquiry showed that Lafleur’s company took in $31.9 million in sponsorship and advertising contracts involving the federal government between 1994 and 2001, and another $28.5 million from federal Crown corporations over that same period.

    That’s a total of $60 million in public funds of which Lafleur personally earned more than $9.3 million while at the helm of Lafleur Communication Marketing between 1994 and 2000, his salary rising from just over $100,000 to $2.5 million. In 1994, Lafleur drew a salary of $108,457. Two years later, he drew one for $2,487,689 and over the course of the sponsorship debacle; Lafleur got paid about $9.4 million.

    During the same period, Lafleur’s wife, daughter and son earned a total of $2.8 million, though they had earned nothing before the sponsorship contracts started to flow in. Lafleur defended those payments by saying they weren’t really a salary. The money “includes the business profits paid, in my name, as salary,” he said.

    Lafleur was scorned by the public during the inquiry when he claimed he had a bad memory and couldn’t remember basic details about his relationship and dealings with several prominent Liberal party members. Lafleur is the fifth person to be charged in the sponsorship affair.
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