Judge jails serial fraudster for 2½ years

A fraud artist who ripped off two employers for more than $170,000 - including more than $22,000 he took to pay back a previous fraud victim - has been sent to prison for two and a half years.

Karim Rajabally Manji, 47, was handed the sentence Monday in North Vancouver provincial court after pleading guilty to defrauding two employers in Richmond and North Vancouver.

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Manji has two previous convictions for similar frauds against companies he worked for.

Manji first helped himself to the company piggy bank when he worked for Pacific Avionics and Instruments at Vancouver International Airport between 2004 and 2006. Manji was hired as a financial manager of the company and was one of three people authorized to sign cheques. Within six weeks of being hired, he had advanced himself an extra $2,500, said Crown counsel Ian Hay. Soon that escalated to further payroll overpayments, use of company credit cards for personal expenses and use of blank signed cheques he had been entrusted with "for emergency purposes."

Manji used his employer's money for emergencies such as: a cruise with his wife, the purchase of jewelry on the company credit card and metal detector equipment for security during the Aga Khan's visit, which Manji was personally involved with.

Manji managed to conceal the fraud because he was the only person who reviewed the payroll documents and credit card expenses, said Hay. Eventually, after the purchase of the jewelry was discovered, a forensic audit was completed. Manji later admitted to taking more than $100,000 from the company.

Manji's fraud didn't stop there. He later went to work for High Output Sports in North Vancouver where he again took money from his employers over several months in 2007. He was eventually caught and handed a nine-month conditional sentence, with orders to pay back the more than $22,000 that went missing from the company's accounts.

Manji accomplished that by taking money from another North Vancouver employer - Aqua-Guard Spill Response Inc. - where he worked between April and November 2008.

That was just part of between $70,000 and $80,000 he took from the company, said Hay. At the time, Manji was serving a conditional sentence for his fraud against High Output Sports, and was still awaiting sentence on a third fraud charge against another Vancouver company.

Hay said Aqua-Guard had hired Manji from a Craigslist ad, but by November 2008 his work had deteriorated and the company had decided to replace him. When company managers spoke to a placement agency about the situation, the agency advised the company about Manji's previous conviction while working for High Output Sports. Managers reviewed their financial records and found improper wire transfers, online payments to Manji's personal credit cards from company accounts and a payment of more than $7,700 for servicing of Manji's car. Manji had also transferred almost $25,000 to a holding company he owned to pay back High Output Sports for the previous fraud.

Hay said Aqua-Guard is a small company that was significantly affected by Manji's crimes. The company had to lay off five employees and cut the pay of remaining staff by 10 per cent just to stay afloat, he said. Pacific Avionics was able to get some losses covered by insurance, but was still out about $41,000, he added.

In sentencing Manji, Judge Carol Baird Ellan noted all four frauds happened between 2004 and 2008 after he and his wife lost their life savings in a failed business venture. At least some of the money taken was used "to keep up appearances" by going on vacation and paying for luxury items like expensive extra-curricular activities for Manji's daughter that the family could not afford, she said.

Baird Ellan noted Manji had been handed a six-month jail sentence for his last fraud conviction, in May 2010. She handed Manji a sentence of one year on the first charge and 18 months on the second charge to be served consecutively.

jseyd@nsnews.com

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