Fraudster posing as local mayors 

Police advise businesses to beware of suspect phone calls

By Alison Taylor

A con man is at work in the corridor and beyond, assuming the identity of local mayors in an attempt to swindle businesses out of money.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed and Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland have both been the victims of misrepresentation. The most recent case involves a fraudulent phone call to a Richmond business in which a man posing as Melamed asked for money and services to deal with a family crisis.

The mayor never made that call, nor would he dream of abusing his position in that way, he said.

“Not only does it not look well on me but it doesn’t look well on the resort to have the mayor behaving in this way,” said a concerned Melamed this week. “I go out of my way not to try and take advantage of my position.”

This is the second time in six months there have been reports of fraudulent phone calls involving Melamed’s name.

He said, however, there is some comfort in knowing he hasn’t been singled out, that other high profile people have been targeted too, including Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland.

There the con was similar. The fraudster tried to get two Squamish businesses to send money to a Money Mart to help the so-called mayor out of a bind.

Both business owners called city hall to confirm the story, where it proved false.

“More than anything else I think the first thing you do is you worry that people who are trying to help out may lose money,” said Sutherland. “I think that people’s natural tendency is to help out anybody in times of need.”

That’s all part of the game. Cpl. Dave Ritchie, of the Squamish RCMP detachment, said the con is to appeal to people’s good-hearted natures.

“He plays on emotions of people, uses a high profile person in the community and someone who’s well known and tries to get people to donate or give,” said Ritchie.

“Our investigation leads us to a person of interest who has done this in Victoria with the mayor, (and) other officials in Maple Ridge, Langley, Coquitlam area.”

Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe fell victim to the scam this year after receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be Chief Andy Thomas of the Esquimalt First Nation. After hearing that one of the chief’s grandchildren died in a tragic accident, Lowe wired more than $400 to a payday loans outlet in downtown Vancouver.

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