Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)

Halifax businessman pleads guilty to bilking Filipino workers


HALIFAX — A Halifax businessman accused of not paying Filipino temporary workers their required wages has pleaded guilty to a charge of misrepresentation involving 26 employees.

Hector Mantolino, owner and operator of Mantolino Property Services Ltd., was charged in June 2013 with 56 counts of immigration fraud following a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) investigation.

Defence lawyers and the federal prosecutor told Justice Glen McDougall today the charges have been “rolled in'' to a single charge of misrepresentation under section 127 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The 55-year-old stood in Nova Scotia Supreme Court to make his plea as about 20 former employees looked on.

Mantolino was accused of advising foreign workers to provide misleading and untruthful statements on their work permit applications between July 2010 and April 2013.

He was alleged to have counselled the workers to lie about their wages if they wanted to stay in Canada — with some working for as low as $3.13 per hour.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto immigration lawyer Andrew Carvajal says he’s pleased the CBSA is cracking down on people taking advantage of newcomers, but he suspects “cases like these are just the tip of the iceberg.”

“The most upsetting part, from the point of view of an immigration practitioner, is that employees like these often don’t act alone. In many cases, they work in collaboration with unscrupulous immigration consultants who advise them on how to misrepresent information on immigration applications,” says Carvajal, a partner with Desloges Law Group.

A number of his clients have sued — or filed complaints against — immigration consultants and employers who fraudulently asked for “extravagant sums of money.”

“The worst part is that most clients thought it was normal to pay to be recruited for a job in Canada and they believed their representative was navigating a genuine immigration program,” Carvajal says.

“It is astonishing the number of ads I see in immigrant groups on social media, advertising these kinds of positions and immigration schemes. This is why I always emphasize to people that employment opportunities that require payment are most likely fraudulent.”

Carvajal says newcomers should be very careful when they choose someone to help guide them through the system.

He is pleased that the government has stiffened the punishment for those who take advantage of immigrants.  

“I fully agree that such penalties should be high, given that many of them take advantage of specifically vulnerable people. In many cases, their victims have little education, limited work skills and only basic English or French. Often, they’ll do anything to immigrate to Canada and stay in the country, so they will tolerate a high level of abuse,” says Carvajal. 

“One of the saddest parts is that most of these fraudsters were themselves immigrants to Canada and lived the challenges of settling in a new country,” he says.

— With files from AdvocateDaily.com

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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