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Black connection to Muslim Toronto Terror Cell

Black connection to Muslim Toronto Terror Cell

Old Aug 30th 2003, 1:10 am
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Dave
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Default Black connection to Muslim Toronto Terror Cell

National Post
Saturday, August 30, 2003

TORONTO - Luther Samuel, the man authorities say sold fraudulent school
papers allowing members of a possible al-Qaeda sleeper cell to take root in
Canada, long felt a duty to bring career training to the city's black
community.

When he purchased the Ottawa Business College, a private vocational school,
in 1997, he quickly moved it from a downtown Ottawa address to a low-rent
stretch of Scarborough to be close to the black and ethnic neighbourhoods he
knew, former associates said.

Within two years, however, his school had degenerated into a mere diploma
mill, selling fraudulent documents and allowing 400 foreign nationals into
Canada illegally, authorities allege.

At least five of the 20 men arrested this month in the sweeping anti-terror
probe used the school to enter Canada; at least seven others used the
school's documents to extend their stay here. Several others have roommates
or associates who used the school's paperwork.

The links are so pronounced that the name of the federal operation, Project
Thread, likely comes from the school being the common thread to the network.

"There's a commonality amongst a certain group and it comes out as a result
of this investigation into Ottawa Business College," Edith Decaire, a
federal government lawyer, said at a hearing for one of the accused.

It is an ignoble end to a school that was founded by an eager educator and
later bought by Mr. Luther with an eye to aiding a community he saw as
neglected.

"He was really hoping to draw from the Jamaican and ethnic community in
Toronto," said a source who knew Mr. Samuel when he was relocating his
school to Toronto.

"That's where he saw a need and also where his contacts and connections
were.

"He wanted to have a school run by blacks with black teachers who understood
the problems of black students and could make sure the students were
appreciated," said the source, who did not wish to be named because of the
national security concerns in the case.

Mr. Samuel could not be reached for comment.

An accountant by training, Mr. Samuel is remembered as a slight, black man
with a delicate Caribbean accent who always wore smart business attire -- a
dress shirt, tie and suit jacket.

He worked for years as an accounting and bookkeeping teacher at a number of
private career colleges in Toronto, later adding administrative duties to
his portfolio.

He sometimes did the companies' books as well.

Mr. Samuel dreamed of owning his own school, but he did not start the Ottawa
Business School from scratch.

The school was founded in 1996 by John Plevritis, a jovial man who opened a
small business school in downtown Ottawa. He soon found it difficult to
attract students because they were ineligible for the government student
loan programs.

(A school must have already had a graduating class and meet several other
criteria before its students are eligible to apply for student assistance.)

Mr. Plevritis went shopping for a school that was already qualified and
bought Retter Business College, a school with a good reputation that was
founded in 1975.

Mr. Plevritis, in turn, sold the Ottawa Business College to Mr. Samuel in
1997, according to records at the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and
Universities.

Mr. Samuel moved the school to Toronto, setting up in a commercial strip in
Scarborough, despite the confusion of a school with an Ottawa name having a
Toronto address.

Ministry of training officials inspected the school and approved it offering
five registered programs: accounting and computers, business administration,
computer support specialist, administrative assistant and computer
programming.

By the start of 1999, however, Mr. Samuel was selling documents to foreign
students that could be used to obtain a student visa, federal authorities
allege. The visas allows foreign nationals into Canada for a specific period
to attend school.

For between $400 and $500, immigrants were buying a letter from the school
stating that the student was accepted at the school and that tuition had
been paid, authorities allege.

Mr. Samuel and an employee, named as Wilde West in hearing documents, worked
to provide the documents regardless of whether tuition was actually paid,
regardless of whether the student was actually taking a course, immigration
hearings heard.

In fact, the paperwork was issued even after the school lost all of its
provincial registration and licensing and offered no classes.

"It was determined that the Ottawa Business College was not a legitimate
school. It was determined the Ottawa Business College had been issuing
fraudulent documents to foreign students in order to aid them to obtain
visas to come to Canada and to maintain status in Canada under student
authorizations," said L. Lasowski, an immigration adjudicator at a detention
review for one of the accused.

Both Mr. Samuel and Ms. West have co-operated with investigators, documents
say. Several hearing records referred to signed declarations and admissions
from the pair.

In January, 2001, Mr. Samuel sold the school to a man named John Roberts but
stayed on as an administrator, according to ministry records.

All registered schools must post a bond with the ministry so that student
tuition can be refunded in the event of bankruptcy. In July, 2001, the
company that provided the college with the school's bond pulled it.

With no replacement bond provided, the business difficulties finally caught
up to the school.

"In September, 2001, the Ottawa Business College's registration was revoked
because it didn't provide us with a new bond," said Dave Ross, spokesman for
the ministry of training.

It did not, however, stop the bogus documents from being sold, authorities
allege. When a man in Mexico applied for a student visa to Canada using the
school's name, the immigration official could not confirm the school
existed.

It was from that first suspicion that this case unravelled.

Bob Runciman, Ontario's Minister of Public Safety and Security, has said the
case highlights the need for the province and the federal government to
examine how schools are registered and student visas issued.
 

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