The head of a Calgary-based organization dedicated to protecting vulnerable newcomers says she is devastated by "false accusations" that she swindled a Japanese student of more than $2-million.
In her first public statement, Melissa Holman said she is confident that she will be acquitted of the 10 charges of fraud and theft levelled against her, and that the reputation of the Temporary Foreign Workers Association of Canada, which she founded, won't be tarnished.
"There was no fraud or scam involved," Ms. Holman, 40, wrote in a statement issued on Thursday.
"Given the fantastic allegations against me, I can understand the public's concern, but it is my hope that the truth will prevail," she wrote. "... I can assure you that I am not guilty of the charges levied against me."
On Tuesday, Calgary police said Ms. Holman was behind a scheme that allegedly robbed a 55-year-old woman from Japan, who is in Canada on a student visa, of two homes and $410,000 in cash. Investigators say the alleged victim was told she couldn't work in Canada and was persuaded to sign over the deeds and provide access to her bank account or else face deportation or seizure of her sizable assets, which were acquired through inheritance and a lifetime of work.
Staff-Sergeant Geoff Gawlinski said police conducted an almost nine-month investigation and consulted with the special prosecutions branch before moving ahead with charges. He said there is no misunderstanding in the case.
The alleged victim, Fusako Kametani, moved to Canada with her daughter three years ago, but was referred to Ms. Holman last year for immigration advice. She told a local newspaper that after that meeting, she was terrified she would lose her life savings.
"I feel like I can't trust anybody," she said.
Police said the rights to both properties have been restored as well as about $90,000.
Ms. Kametani has filed a lawsuit with the Court of Queen's Bench that accuses Ms. Holman of using her money to "pay for gambling losses at casinos." (Police told reporters investigators noticed "lifestyle changes" and banking "irregularities.") Ms. Kametani is seeking almost $400,000 in damages. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Ms. Holman, a married mother of two, doesn't address claims of gambling problems in her statement and said her lawyer has instructed her not to say anything further. Attempts to contact Ms. Holman and her lawyer on Thursday were unsuccessful.
In her statement, Ms. Holman describes a relationship once so close that Ms. Kametani planned to appoint her guardian of her daughter.
She also said it was Ms. Kametani's idea to sign over the properties for "personal reasons," and that the arrangement was made both verbally in front of witnesses and in legal documents.
"The transfers to me took place with a lawyer present," she wrote. "Six weeks later, she asked for them back and I did so immediately."
Ms. Holman said she did receive money from Ms. Kametani, but she never controlled banking accounts. She said Ms. Kametani is a shareholder in her company and that she was interested in opening branch offices in Japan to help with the aftermath of the tsunami.
Henry Beaumont, Ms. Kametani's lawyer, said this is the first he's heard of any of Ms. Holman's claims about his client.
"My client's really upset. She said this [situation] makes her look like a fool," he said.