U.S. authorities say an American who allegedly impersonated a Canadian deputy minister of health and other Health Canada staff faces fraud charges following an investigation that involved the FBI and RCMP.
Prosecutors allege Howard Leventhal, 56, of Long Grove, Ill., scammed Paragon Financial Group for US$800,000 by claiming the Florida company could collect money he said Health Canada owed to his company, Neovision.
According to the complaint filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., Leventhal assured Paragon he was providing Health Canada with "Heltheo's McCoy Home Health Tablet."
The device, which purportedly delivers instantaneous and detailed patient data to physicians and other licensed health-care providers, was named after Dr. Leonard McCoy of TV's "Star Trek."
To conceal the scheme, authorities allege, Leventhal assumed the identities of Health Canada representatives, including that of deputy health minister Glenda Yeates, who retired recently.
Leventhal, who was arrested Tuesday, created and used domain names, telephone numbers, and email addresses that closely resembled those actually used by Health Canada, such as hc-sg-gc.ca in place of Health Canada's true domain name hc-sc.gc.ca, the complaint says.
There was, however, no such arrangement between Health Canada, and Leventhal and Yeates' signature on the agreement was a forgery, the attorney's office said.
Nevertheless, Paragon advanced Leventhal the $800,000 based on his representations but has yet to see any money come back.
The complaint also alleges Leventhal tried to defraud an undercover officer in Brooklyn of more than US$2.5 million by claiming Neovision had a lucrative contract with Health Canada.
He told the undercover agent Neovision had US$18 million in sales for 2012, and emailed the same fraudulent agreement he had used to deceive Paragon.
"As alleged, Leventhal claimed to have lucrative connections within the Canadian government and cutting edge technology that could help save lives," Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
"In reality, his scheme was pure science fiction, complete with phoney documents and a fictional medical device."
Lynch thanked the RCMP and Health Canada for their "significant co-operation and assistance" in the investigation.
The charges, which have not been proven in any court, carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years on conviction.
-Written by Colin Perkel in Toronto