Montreal man extradited, while on beach trip, to face U.S. fraud, money-laundering charges
A Montreal-area man went to sunny Jamaica over the holidays, only to be extradited from there to the United States to face fraud and money-laundering charges.
Martin Hogan, 52, has been accused by U.S. authorities of bilking dozens of American seniors out of their savings in a cross-border swindle totalling as much as $2 million.
According to the indictment, Hogan and several co-conspirators, both Canadian and American, told seniors they’d won a sweepstakes in Canada but needed to pay taxes or customs fees to release the money over the border.
Five Americans were already convicted in the same scheme, most living on the American side of the border-straddling Mohawk community of Akwesasne.
U.S. authorities didn’t say why they chose to extradite Hogan from Jamaica, rather than Canada, or exactly which day they did so.
“We will not allow anyone, including foreign actors, [to] illegally enrich themselves by preying on our elderly,” said the U.S.Attorney handling the case, James P. Kennedy of the Western District of New York, in a press release.
“Criminals who defraud and threaten U.S. citizens will not escape justice by placing their calls from outside our country. As this case shows, we will find you, and we will bring you to justice.”
Hogan first appeared in court Monday morning and pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He requested court-appointed counsel and has been assigned a lawyer based in Rochester, N.Y.
That lawyer hasn’t yet responded to CTV's request for comment.
U.S. authorities didn’t provide Hogan’s address but said he lived in Montreal. A man named Martin Hogan is linked to a residential address in Kirkland, in the West Island – a home that went up for sale on Jan. 29, listed at nearly $900,000.
A neighbour on the street said the man who had been living there with his wife was named Martin, though she didn’t know his last name. She said she’d had no problems with him and that he seemed nice.
The property is currently listed in the name of another person, and the realtor responsible for the listing said he couldn’t comment.
According to the indictment, about 37 seniors lost tens of thousands each, at least, in a phone-based fraud scheme that had some of them remortgaging their homes.
The charges carry a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
CALLS COMING FROM CANADA
A special agent for the IRS, the U.S. tax agency, wrote in an affidavit in the criminal complaint that the fraud was first organized on the Canadian side.
An upstate New York man named Anthony Laughing Jr. “was approached over four years ago by Martin Hogan and other co-conspirators in Canada, to set up addresses in New York that they could have victims send packages of cash to in the United States and then arrange to have the cash from the packages brought over” into Canada, the special agent alleged.
Laughing Jr. is one of the people already convicted in the case. The court documents reference other Canadian co-conspirators several times but never name them.
Several of the alleged transactions, by truck and mail, were captured by law enforcement surveillance, as well as texts and WhatsApp messages.
In one case, a man they alleged to be Hogan texted one of the other, “Just need to find a few new people as always and we will roll again.”
The fraud victims were called by a man and woman, usually from Canadian area codes, the affidavit alleges.
“Martin Hogan and other co-conspirators in Canada used anonymous ‘burner’ or disposable pay-for-minute phones to operate the elderly fraud exploitation scheme and changed phone numbers often,” the affidavit alleges.
“Many of the victims were told their lottery or sweepstakes winnings were in Canada.”
Some were also told that the amount they paid up front in supposed customs fees would determine how big their winnings were.
One woman in Las Vegas, for example, “was informed by Charles and Karen [the names the callers used] that she had won a large sum of money in Canada and needed to pay a 2.5% fee in order to have the funds cross the border from Canada,” the affidavit said.
“The victim understood she was to pay 2.5% for the funds to be released. Charles told the victim she had the option of paying 2.5% of $250,000 to receive $250,000, or she could pay 2.5% of $2.5 million to receive $2.5 million.”
That woman took out a reverse mortgage on her home in order to send the huge sums requested.
DRIVING CASH ACROSS THE BORDER
One “cooperating witness” allegedly told investigators that Laughing Jr. asked to use his business bank account to deposit the money into, in exchange for a small fee.
The group also allegedly used wire transfers later on, though in text and WhatsApp messages, they said they preferred cash, as quoted in the court documents.
People from Akwesasne would drive cash over the border in exchange for a cut—Laughing Jr. told one person he was paid 10 per cent of wire earnings.
Laughing Jr. “drove the money from the United States into Canada to
Martin Hogan himself during the earlier years of the scheme,” the special agent alleged.
Akwesasne is a Mohawk territory that lies on both sides of the U.S-Canada border near Cornwall, Ont., but its residents are required to declare their crossings to border agents as people do elsewhere.
Laughing Jr. “also paid his aunt and nephew to drive the money into Canada if he had more than $10,000 to bring into Canada at one time so that he did not have to declare the cash when crossing the border into Canada,” the affidavit said.
Later, he “also hired his aunt, Brenda Garrow, and his nephew, Devlin Laughing, to drive the money into Canada because he had outstanding arrest warrants in Canada and could no longer cross into Canada.” Both were later convicted.
Laughing Jr. told a cooperating witness “it was ‘free money’ and that he wasn’t doing any work for the money,” the agent wrote.
U.S. authorities determined that the total take from the scheme was about $2 million from about 2015 to last year, and they alleged that Hogan and others “operating” the scheme made about $1,500,000 USD from it.
Hogan’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 1. None of the allegations relating to the charges against him has been tested or proven in court.