A Central Saanich woman flipped the script on a man who defrauded her, leading to his arrest.
The victim, whose identity remains anonymous, first approached Central Saanich Police on March 27 with a story about an online romance gone wrong, according to Deputy Chief Derren Lench.
Lench said the woman revealed she had been in an online relationship with a Calgary man named Mohammed El-Tassi who she met on the dating website Plenty of Fish. The relationship went on for a few months and she told police she had genuine feelings for this person; she had even visited Calgary to meet with him and some of his family and friends.
It turns out the man was using a fake name. He was actually 40-year-old Mohammed Assaf, who had warrants out in four different provinces for fraud-related crimes. Assaf told the victim they both could make money by reselling auction vehicles and through foreclosed real estate property. The victim sent him money, amounting to around $35,000, over the course of their short relationship.
Later Assaf even told the victim he had cancer and would talk to her about his so-called treatments.
“Right from the get-go she was giving him money and as more and more money was coming she got suspicious,” Lench said. “She became more suspicious as it moved along and ultimately she came in.”
The victim worked with Central Saanich Police and police in Calgary to set up a ruse because Assaf’s exact location was unknown to be able to make an arrest. The victim bought movie tickets for Assaf and his children and Calgary Police were tipped off, making the arrest at a local theatre.
“We wanted to bring this person out into the open … he had been doing similar things since 2010, so for seven years,” Lench said. “Definitely this was one where he capitalized on this relationship.”
Lench said he commends the victim for putting aside her feelings and helping to arrest the fraudster with a lengthy criminal record, adding that she was courageous.
Assaf is charged with fraud over $5,000 and has around 17 other charges in Calgary alone, along with around three to four charges from two other provinces, according to Lench.
Scams similar in nature are not common in the area, Lench said, but people should still do their due diligence when it comes to new relationships, especially ones that ask for money.