Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Four Winnipeggers charged in disability tax scam

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Four Winnipeggers -- including an elderly doctor and her son-in-law -- have been charged in connection with a tax scheme that netted millions of dollars for Winnipeggers claiming disabilities they didn’t have, Canada Revenue Agency investigators say.

The Income Tax Act charges allege that John Lopes, who runs J & J Canadian Grants Company, Ltd., collaborated with his mother-in-law Dr. Clarita Vianzon to generate false disability tax credit certificates.

The certificates were used by people to obtain tax credits to which they weren’t entitled, the charges allege.

"Claiming a disability tax credit is complex...People believe they would not qualify; this is not the case," said a company brochure obtained by the Free Press.

The bogus certificates raked in refunds for clients - who later had to pay them back - and hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions and fees for the company, investigators said in court documents.

The Canada Revenue Agency obtained warrants to search for documents at J & J Canadian Grants on Century Street, the doctor’s St. James home and the clinics where she last worked -- the Norlyn medical building on Hargrave Street and the St. James Street Medical Clinic.

Search warrant information said J & J Canadian Grants submitted at least 475 claims in less than a year, requesting reassessments for the disability tax credit from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Vianzon certified 262 of those claims with similar wording in the description of the disability and J & J submitted them. The refunds totalled $2.8 million.

In 2005, new taxpayer-relief provisions under the Income Tax Act let people apply for the disability tax credit, retroactive 10 years. With a doctor’s certification, they could receive a sizable refund.

Court documents detailed several of the claims Vianzon certified and J & J processed. Most said the claimant had problems walking and dressing and they’d had the problem for the last 10 years -- even though the doctor had never seen them before.

As a result, the government paid out $3.5 million in refunds and interest payments to the people claiming they were owed the disability credit.

Company directors Jose Diogo and Jim Kussy were also charged under the income tax act. Vianzon has since retired from her medical practice, and J & J Canadian Grants closed its doors.

No court date has been set yet.

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