An American fraud artist used a fake agreement with Health Canada – including a forged deputy minister’s signature – as he sought investors for a high-tech device called the Heltheo’s McCoy Home Health Tablet, according to U.S. authorities.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Monday that Howard Leventhal, a 56-year-old resident of Illinois, is facing 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to a series of fraud-related charges and to aggravated identity theft. He is also facing $1-million in forfeitures and a $2-million fine, to be determined at his sentencing in April.
Mr. Leventhal approached would-be investors in the United States with a fake agreement to provide his tablet computers to the Canadian government, showcasing a document that included the forged signature of former Health Canada deputy minister Glenda Yeates. He hoped to get $25-million for his project.
Mr. Leventhal assumed the identities of other Health Canada officials as part of his scheme, creating a series of false federal e-mail addresses. While Health Canada uses electronic addresses that end with @hc-sc.gc.ca, Mr. Leventhal created e-mails that included names such as @healthcanada.com and @hc-sg-gc.ca, according to the FBI.
The FBI said the tablet was likely named in honour of Star Trek character Dr. Leonard McCoy, who is known for uttering phrases such as “I’m a doctor, not a mechanic” on the iconic series. According to Mr. Leventhal’s pitch, the device was supposed to “instantaneously and effectively deliver detailed patient data to physicians and other licensed medical care providers.”
“In Leventhal’s world, the truth was cloaked by his web of lies and impersonation,” United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement.
“Within this alternate reality, Leventhal marketed non-existent technology, fabricated an online presence, and impersonated a government official, all to defraud investors out of very real money. His actions were the stuff of fantasy and science fiction, valid only in another dimension.”
Mr. Leventhal claimed that Health Canada owed millions of dollars to his firm, called Neovision USA Inc., as he sought investors to provide him with money in exchange for a share of his future earnings. Mr. Leventhal obtained $800,000 from a firm in Florida, and he sought $25-million from other investors, including an undercover agent who posed as a millionaire, the FBI said.
In Canada, Mr. Leventhal has been charged with one count of fraud and seven counts of uttering a forged document following an RCMP investigation.
The probe was launched after Health Canada was informed of the attempted fraud by U.S. officials.
According to the RCMP, Mr. Leventhal tried to obtain a $2.5-million (Canadian) line of credit from the TD Bank Group, claiming that his firm was owed $37-million by Health Canada.
The RCMP alleged that Mr. Leventhal used falsified Health Canada contracts and assumed the identity of Health Canada officials as part of his scheme in Canada.
The RCMP has issued a warrant for his arrest.
Ms. Yeates could not be reached on Monday, and Health Canada refused to comment on the matter, citing the ongoing legal process in Canada.