A Toronto businessman and self-described campaign volunteer who circulates in Conservative circles is facing a criminal charge for allegedly fraudulent credit- and debit-card withdrawals - a background that did not prevent him from sitting right behind the Harper family at a rally last week.
Snover Dhillon met with Tory MP Patrick Brown, of Barrie, Ont., at an event in the Punjab region of India in January and attended a Tory convention in Halifax a month later, appearing to violate bail conditions set in December that barred him from leaving Ontario.
Stephen Harper's campaign has come under fire for its strict vetting of rally attendees. The Conservative Leader is also facing questions about how a former senior adviser, Bruce Carson, was able to work in his inner circle despite fraud convictions in the 1980s and 1990s and a bankruptcy in 1993.
Mr. Dhillon landed a plum seat in the second row of Mr. Harper's rally in Brampton, Ont., on Mar. 27, right behind Laureen Harper and the Harper children, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, and local candidates.
A picture that captured Mr. Dhillon at the event was posted on the website of Bramalea-Gore-Malton candidate Bal Gosal.
Mr. Dhillon runs an organization called the Indo-Canadian Peace Alliance, a group that claims 80 members in the Toronto area. It has published a magazine called Rising India, which names Mr. Brown as a member of its advisory panel - a role Mr. Brown said he wasn't aware of.
Its August-September, 2010, issue included several Conservative government press releases republished in their entirety. Mr. Dhillon appears in several photographs with Tory cabinet ministers, and tweets frequently about party events he attends at a federal and local level.
He also runs a company called Everonwards Realty and Management Ltd. Mr. Dhillon was charged in December for allegedly running up credit and debit cards while providing credit counselling to a Brampton mother of two named Raj Kumari Seedhar.
Mr. Dhillon is scheduled to appear in court on May 2 - coincidentally the same day as the federal election.
In an interview earlier this week, Mr. Dhillon said he was helping the campaigns of Gosal and Kyle Seeback in nearby Brampton West. Mr. Dhillon posted on Twitter on Mar. 25 that he had been door-knocking with Mr. Gosal.
"We are getting a very good response from the Indo-Canadian community," he told The Canadian Press. "We were out door-knocking the last couple of days and we are getting signs and a commitment from a lot of people … that did vote the last time for the Liberals but did change their minds and are converting with us."
Mr. Dhillon did not return subsequent phone calls and e-mails Wednesday to answer questions about the fraud charge and bail conditions.
Mr. Gosal's campaign flatly denied he had ever worked as a volunteer, although Mr. Brown also noted that Mr. Dhillon was working on the campaign in Bramalea-Gore-Malton. Mr. Seebak's campaign did not return a call.
Mr. Dhillon also refers to Mr. Brown as a friend. He sponsored a trip to India for Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown's sister, and two other MPs in 2007. Mr. Brown has referred to "Sam," one of the names Mr. Dhillon uses, and posted photographs of them together on Twitter, including one at the third Annual Miss Canada Punjabi Beauty Contest in October.
On Mar. 25, Mr. Dhillon posted, "My friend @brownbarrie will set new record with massive Conservative victory in Barrie." There are several other references to meetings with Mr. Brown on Mr. Dhillon's Twitter feed, from fundraisers to sharing a coffee at the airport. Conservative sources familiar with both men referred to Mr. Dhillon and Mr. Brown as friends.
But Mr. Brown himself hesitated to call Mr. Dhillon a friend, although he said he had seen him many times at political events. He said he was unaware of the charge against Mr. Dhillon, and of the bail restrictions.
"I just wouldn't want to characterize it any way; I wouldn't want to say friend or not friend," said Mr. Brown, who is co-chair of the Canada-India Parliamentary Association.
"I like to be supportive of anyone, but obviously I wouldn't be supportive of any conduct that is illegal, and I've got no patience for any conduct that's illegal, but having said that, you're the first one to tell me there's something inappropriate in his past. If that's the case, I'll obviously keep my distance."
The allegations against Mr. Dhillon have not been tested in court.
The Conservative campaign has been dogged by other controversies surrounding volunteers with local campaigns.
The Tories distanced themselves from former ministerial staffer Sebastien Togneri after The Canadian Press revealed he was working on the campaign of Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Ryan Hastman. The RCMP are investigating whether there is evidence to lay charges against Mr. Togneri for interfering with an Access to Information request.