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Ottawa Leather Community Targeted in Fraud Scam
Local titleholder impersonated in telephone plea for cash
ONLINE:  MONDAY MARCH 20, 1:03 PM EST (GMT-5).
UPDATED:  MONDAY MARCH 20, 1:39 PM EST (GMT-5). (Below)

Dean Ross
SOMEONE has been calling members of the leather community claiming to be Dean Ross and saying they've been beaten up, are stranded in New York City, and need money to get back home to Ottawa.  A Toronto man has already been taken for $300 US by the perpetrator.

The treasurer of the local leather group, the Ottawa Knights, was targeted yesterday but able to see through it after asking for details and the caller presenting two different identities in the course of the conversation.  As well, another of the targets in the current outbreak was one of the alleged 'victims' last time.

Toronto police have reportedly said they won't take action because the impersonator is not promising services in return for the cash and therefore it's not fraud.  Members of the local leather community are reportedly having trouble establishing communication with the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service over the past 12-24 hours.  And Western Union, the money transfer company being used as the cash channel, reportedly won't provide details or get involved either due to a privacy policy.

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The local leather group, the Ottawa Knights, is trying to get the word out to warn community members across North America of the scheme.  And Dean Ross, the impersonation target and former Mr. Leather Ottawa-Hull and Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 1999, is furious.

"Yes, I feel violated," Mr. Ross stated.  "I feel very violated because they've hurt my friends and preyed on their sympathies by pretending to be me ... it's akin to stalking," he continued.  "It ticks me off ... everyone I know in the US has been contacted."

'I want this guy.'

- Dean Ross
 
Mr. Ross warns that the caller's voice sounds very much like his own, except tired.

The leather community leader has been trying to bring police attention to the scheme and has been in touch with both the RCMP and INTERPOL.  He's off work today, safe and sound, but working hard on warning people across North America and ending the scheme.  "I want this guy," he announced.

Mr. Ross has expertise in self-defense and shares it locally through teaching gay and lesbian people in Ottawa how to protect themselves if physically attacked.  The use of the 'beaten-up' scenario in the scheme is ironic and one could only speculate on who would end up needing help should the two ever meet.

But this is not the first time a scheme like this has been rolled out and people in the leather community have been taken.

"This happened about 2-years ago," said John Purdie of the Ottawa Knights.  The scenario at that time was of a friend of Mr. Purdie's from Washington, DC, having been beaten up in a lesbian bar across the river from the capital in Hull.  Mr. Purdie confirmed that Mr. Ross' lover, Ryan, has been impersonated as well in this instance.

The open, sharing, community spirit of leather groups may be leaving them vulnerable.
 
 
"It occurs throughout North America .. it's growing but difficult to stop because it changes locations and crosses borders," he explained.  The scenario usually plays out with a leather community member receiving a collect phone call apparently from a prominent titleholder in distress in a city far from home.

And the open, sharing, community spirit of leather groups may be leaving them vulnerable.  Which means they may have to make some changes.

"Whoever’s doing this is obviously aware of the leather community’s reputation for brotherhood and mutual assistance," commented Murray Lavigne, president of the Ottawa Knights in a statement. "But we also share information, so he can’t keep this up for long."

Mr. Purdie stated that some professional advice to the group may be in order on how to deal with the transparency and easily available information describing their leaders.  "Somehow they've got lists [with phone numbers]," he concluded.  "It may be someone within the leather community."


Mr. Ross reports that he has been online with Western Union and that they are "appearing to be more cooperative than I was told they would be."  He also cites a cash transaction identification number.

He further reports having been in touch with the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Hate Crimes Unit, the RCMP, INTERPOL, and the FBI in New York.  Mr. Ross states that the phone calls are continuing and urges that "if anyone else has been contacted or has a voice message from 'me', do not erase it."

If anyone is in possession of such a recording or has any further information they are being asked to contact their local police and the Ottawa Knights at ottawa-knights@gayottawa.com.  The Knights may also be contacted by telephone at (613) 237-9833 and by fax at (613) 237-4022.