October 21, 2011
Anaheim Ducks center Saku Koivu(notes) spent 13 memorable seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. He signed his share of autographs during that time; but it was someone else using his signature that got Koivu tangled in an odd tale of fraud and thievery.
According to La Presse on Friday (in French), Saku Koivu received a tax refund check from the Quebec government for $140,899 in Sept. 2009. Then someone stole it, and along with the check had copies of Koivu's identification. This person brought it to a check-cashing facility in Côte-des-Neiges, claiming that Koivu had given him authority to cash the check on his behalf. Which, of course, he hadn't.
David Nowak, the manager at the Go-Remit money transfer store, didn't have that kind of cash on hand, so he went through a third party, Centurion Fund, to secure the funds. Secure them he did: $135,000 cash, in a bag, short the commission for the third party.
A bag that was then stolen from his car, as he hid the money under a seat while stopping at a store on his way back to Go-Remit and someone broke into his ride.
So Nowak was out $135,000. To remedy this, he began skimming money from 31 clients of his money exchange, many of them Filipino immigrants. Those clients went to the police, and this whole situation finally came to light.
Via his agent Don Baizley, Koivu told La Presse that his tax return cheque had been stolen and deposited by someone who had forged his signature. He also said that the Montreal Police had then gotten in touch with him and that he had discussed it with the NHL security officials. "Once the authorities were convinced the signature was forged, Saku received another cheque. That's the extent of his implication in this story", said Baizley in a short email.
Nowak was charged with fraud, and given 12 months of community service and two years probation.
So the lesson here is … er … well, there's a lot about the theft of Koivu's check that's still unanswered. But the lesson here is obviously never to leave $135,000 under the seat of your car. That's what trunks are for, people.
Big thanks to Yahoo! Canada's Marie-Helene Savard for the translation support.