On paper, Salman Farooq was the perfect Tory candidate: A Pakistani immigrant with a business built from scratch, an attractive young family and friends in high places.
But on Wednesday, just days after he quietly abandoned his provincial election bid, Mr. Farooq found himself in the back seat of a police cruiser and facing charges related to mortgage frauds dating back to 2007 - including the identity theft of a Pakistani diplomat.
The former candidate, whom The Globe and Mail had been attempting to contact for a story since late January, was arrested just before 6 p.m. at his home on an upscale cul-de-sac in Woodbridge, northwest of Toronto.
The loss of Mr. Farooq leaves the Ontario Progressive Conservative party without a candidate in Pickering-Scarborough East for the fall election and facing questions about how a man under police investigation wound up a host of dinner parties with party leader Tim Hudak and federal candidates.
Mr. Farooq, 35, whose full name is Salman Farooq Sheikh, faces as many as 14 charges, including fraud over $5,000, related to mortgages obtained in people's names without their knowledge. Among the complainants is a former Pakistani vice-consul to Toronto whose name was used to buy a $640,000 home in suburban Newmarket.
Other charges include fraudulently using credit card data to purchase three business class airline tickets totaling thousands of dollars, and possession of a stolen/forged cheque worth several thousands of dollars. In a release, Toronto Police said there may still be more victims.
Mr. Farooq, whose campaign manager cited health reasons when he told The Globe the candidate had withdrawn early this week, has no fixed address, according to Toronto police - a fact that only adds intrigue to a man known for lavish political dinners at his capacious suburban home and who claimed on his campaign website to own a successful business with 70 employees.
As it turns out, Mr. Farooq's two-storey, $1.1-million stucco house is a rental, and his mortgage brokerage - a one-room operation hidden in a nondescript Toronto office plaza - is owned by someone else.
Mr. Hudak did not respond to requests for comment.
News of Mr. Farooq's arrest and withdrawal as a candidate from October's provincial election comes two months after The Globe began seeking interviews with him. In late January, his political aide, Kim Dowds, said he was too busy to talk to the media, and requested a list of questions to pass along to him "to work on." The questions, about basic biographical details, were sent in early February but there was no response from Mr. Farooq, nor did Ms. Dowds return subsequent e-mails and phone messages.
For a rookie candidate seeking public office, Mr. Farooq kept an unusually low profile. No home phone number is listed for him. The house he shares with his wife and young son has no address numbers, calls to his cellphone ring into a voice mailbox too full to take new messages and e-mails go unanswered.
Mr. Farooq's wife, Rabia, answered the door at their house on Dorwood Court in Woodbridge this week. Her husband was not home, and she declined to answer questions about him.
Martin Bugden, his campaign manager, told The Globe this week that Mr. Farooq "has to have heart surgery," but that it was a scheduled procedure and he had not been rushed to hospital.
Mr. Farooq's situation is the second time in a month the Ontario Tories have faced questions about candidate screening procedures. The Globe earlier reported that Toronto-area Tory contender Shan Thayaparan has ties to a group built from remnants of the World Tamil Movement, which was banned as a Canadian front for the Tamil Tigers, a violent separatist group in Sri Lanka. Mr. Thayaparan remains the candidate for Markham-Unionville.
Ken Zeise, PC Party president, said he was not aware Mr. Farooq was under criminal investigation. As for the screening process, "We do the best we can to do research as to what a person's activities are," he said.
Mr. Zeise was among guests at a dinner last August at Mr. Farooq's home in Woodbridge. The mortgage broker had already won the nomination in Pickering-Scarborough East.
Federal Conservatives including Chris Alexander, Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan and the federal Tory candidate in Ajax-Pickering, were also at the dinner. Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician and international celebrity outside North America, was the guest of honour.
Mr. Alexander declined to comment on Mr. Farooq's situation, citing his own campaign for the May 2 election. "It's not an issue I can afford to make a priority at the moment," he said.
Mr. Hudak did not attend the dinner last August, but had been in Pickering two weeks earlier to support his candidate at the "First Annual Farooq Community Family Picnic" for his would-be constituents.
Mr. Farooq has been a broker at New Vision Mortgages Inc. for several years, although his licence with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario says he now works for MortgageBrokers.com Inc. Mr. Farooq joined the latter company in the past month, an employee said.
A page on the business-networking site LinkedIn lists Salman Farooq as "Owner, Newvision Mortgage Alliance," but offers no details. His personal campaign website, before it was taken offline on Tuesday, said "Salman came to Canada with $2,600 in his pocket and a dream to make a better life for him and his family. Salman now owns a successful business that employs 70 people."
However, Mr. Farooq's name does not appear on the corporate registration for New Vision Mortgages Inc., which lists Ashraf Koya of Toronto as the company's sole director.
Sources confirmed that police visited New Vision after complainants, including Pakistan's former vice-consul in Toronto, reported their identities had been used to obtain mortgages. In the vice-consul's case, it is alleged the $640,000 loan taken in his name amounted to the full purchase price of a home on Lockwood Circle in Newmarket, bought in August, 2007.
Mr. Farooq is due to appear in court for a bail hearing on Thursday.
Correction: Peter Kent, the MP for Thornhill and the Minister of the Environment, has not been a dinner guest of Salman Farooq, a former provincial Conservative candidate, as was reported in an earlier version of this story. This version has been corrected.