Expatriate denies charges accusing him of fraud. He lived it up in Kyiv, but since February he’s been behind bars and is now on trial. He could face 12 years in prison if convicted.
For years, Indian-born expatriate Joel Samuel traveled around Kyiv with a confident swagger, name-dropping big connections, claiming to work in nightclub management and software development.
Now police say he was a scammer who allegedly swindled people out of more than $400,000.
Samuel, 30, has been in Kyiv’s Lukyanivka pretrial detention center since February, Judge Yevhen Sydorov told the Kyiv Post at the Kyiv City Shevchenko District Court. In May, prosecutors handed over the criminal case to the Shevchenko District Court. Closed criminal proceedings resumed on Sept. 6, during which one alleged victim, Japanese citizen Pouru Ota, testified. Ota claims Samuel stole $355,000 in a real estate fraud scheme.
If convicted of the state charges – financial fraud, grand theft and forgery – Samuel faces up to 12 years in prison.
Samuel called the Kyiv Post several times and sent numerous text messages while in custody, starting on Aug. 21, to insistently proclaim his innocence. “I’m denying everything,” he said.
When asked of his whereabouts during the first phone call, Samuel initially denied he was in jail. Samuel’s lawyer declined to discuss the case with the Kyiv Post.
Samuel urged the Kyiv Post not to print an article about him “unless you’ve got 100 percent proof” or else “if and when I’m found not guilty, I’ll fight back with everything I got.”
Samuel moved around in Kyiv’s expatriate community in recent years, pitching various business ideas. In early 2011, for example, Samuel and a team of programmers were retained by the Kyiv Post as iPad application developers in exchange for free advertisements for Heaven nightclub, which he claimed to co-own. After several months, however, the Kyiv Post severed its ties with Samuel amid concerns about him and the product.
The Leeds Crown Court convicted Samuel of six criminal offenses in England. He spent five years in prison, from 2002 to 2007, as the confessed ringleader of a credit card fraud gang that stole nearly $200,000, according to British media reports. He also pleaded guilty to obtaining property by deception and cooperated with authorities.
Samuel admitted to doing prison time in England for what he described as the “largest credit card fraud in England at that time.” Following Samuel’s arrest, British police reportedly found sophisticated copying equipment, bank logos and enough plastic at his residence to produce 19,000 fake cards.
Samuel, according to the Leeds Crown Court, initially received a seven-year sentence after prosecutors provided evidence in court about how he had used cloned cards to put deposits on luxury sports cars, stay in posh hotels and dine at lavish restaurants. But the London Court of Appeal later reduced the sentence to five and a half years.
Ukrainian police allege Samuel defrauded Ota, 45, the Japanese businessman, of more than $350,000 and stole a Porsche Cayenne worth $80,000 as well as a $30,000 Vertu mobile phone.
Ota, who lives in Ukraine, told the Kyiv Post at the Shevchenko District Court on Sept. 6 that he met Samuel through a real estate agency while on the market to buy a third apartment in Kyiv in December “as an investment for my two Ukraine-born children … I thought I would give him a chance when I met him to sell me property. He seemed trustworthy.”
Ota alleges that Samuel had in January used a fraudulent power-of-attorney, using a Sri Lankan passport under the name Irosha Trinty Perera, to withdraw more than $350,000 from a Kyiv bank after he had transferred funds for the purchase of an apartment. The Kyiv Post has obtained a color copy of his alleged Sri Lankan passport.
Ota alleges that at one point, on Jan. 25, he was refused entry into Ukraine when he came to investigate whether the money was missing.
Samuel, who according to police records was born in Chennai, India, was detained in February for allegedly stealing the luxury mobile phone. While Samuel was in custody, police say they uncovered other alleged transgressions, including the withdrawal of $355,000 from Ota’s account at a Ukrainian bank.
Samuel may have come to Ukraine in 2008. A person with the same name, date of birth and parental origins applied for a job at the Kyiv Post. Samuel denied applying for any job in Ukraine.
In the cover letter and resume, the Samuel who contacted the Kyiv Post claimed to have been born and raised in South London and to have graduated with a degree in philosophy and economics from the University of Bristol in 2001. He also stated that his father was a church minister in the U.K. On his resume, the applicant claimed to have worked for Barclays Bank as a financial adviser in 2001-2004, while Samuel was in prison.
Additionally, Samuel’s Ukrainian visa expired more than two years ago. Police records list him as an undocumented immigrant. Samuel said he wasn’t allowed to leave the country to renew his visa.
He also allegedly used aliases. He made sensational claims – such as that he is the nephew of slain Tamil Tiger leader Thiruvenkadam Prabhakaran. The Kyiv Post was unable to corroborate this claim.
In a Skype call with the Kyiv Post from the U.K., Samuel’s father – Rev. Thurairajah Samuel – said “these are fabricated stories.” Samuel’s father said that he hasn’t seen his son for years and that he has “departed ways and is no longer connected with him.”
Samuel’s name and various aliases are listed on numerous fraud alert websites and forums, including ripoffreport.com.
The Indian Embassy didn’t respond to several Kyiv Post inquiries. The British Embassy said that they were “aware of him.”
Kyiv Post staff writer Mark Rachkevych can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.