Imelda Fronda Saluma. CTV screen grab
November 25, 2015
1000 Finch Ave. West Toronto
Toronto, CA – “Imelda, you shattered dreams, betrayed trust and friendship, made us financially exhausted; heartless, she caused us deep emotional and physical impact, insulted the Canadian Immigration, took advantage of sympathetic natured individuals.”
These are the words of anger and rage by the victims of Imelda Fronda Saluma as they read their impact statement before the court on November 25, 2015 at Courthouse Room 308. They were hoping to have heard the final verdict for the biggest swindler in the Filipino Community in Toronto. Saluma collected money from over 900 individuals around the world – amounting to around 1.5 million dollars – in exchange of promised jobs in Canada in the agricultural sector, hotel industry, and caregiver program.
All the recruiters for GoWest Jobs International, who have recruited a significant number of applicants for Saluma, also appeared before the court.
During the proceedings, Joriphie Maristela, one of Saluma’s victims, passed out presumably due to a fit of rage and stress. This lead the court to call for its first break. After fifteen minutes, the second session began – the submission of the crown, Atty David Wright and recommendations. The recommendation was to have a maximum of 14 years of imprisonment and order restitution. The defense counsel Atty Monica Lipson, on the other hand, highlighted mitigation on the ground that Saluma refunded some of the money and that there should be no restitution. Mitigation is to lower the sentence, while restitution is to order the defendant to pay the victims. Police investigation proved that Saluma has been an avid gambler, losing money up to 2.6 million dollars in casinos.
It was in November 2014 when the plaintiffs gathered to file a lawsuit against Saluma and cohorts. Complainants went forward under the leadership of Agnes Aquino who sought the professional service of Atty. Matthew Tubie.
In January 29, 2015, Imelda Saluma was arrested by the police in Fallsview Casino, Niagara, Ontario through the effort and in collaboration with Division 31 and Halton Police headed by Detective Police Investigator Erwin Mendoza. He also guided the plaintiffs as they pursue their case.
As the case progressed, more recruiters came out with the exposition that they sold properties and re-mortgaged houses so as they could refund money to the victims. One particular recruiter, who chose to be called “Agent in Taiwan,” said she lost her properties in the Philippines and sold their house in Vancouver so as to refund money to people who started threatening her and her family. Saluma gave her a refund amounting to $197,000. Currently though, she still owe people money. She is hoping to recoup some amount once the court order restitution from Imelda Saluma.
Saluma was given the chance to speak before the court. Her statement expressed that she was ready to face the consequences and asked forgiveness from all the people she owed money from. She also appealed to the judge to look into her case, hoping to be given due consideration in the final decision.
Judge Janice Pringle, scheduled the final decision on December 17, 2015 at Room 301. The victims are invited to attend to hear the final verdict to Imelda Saluma. –Judith Gonzales.