A convenience store owner was convicted Monday of extorting thousands of dollars from two employees.
After six days of deliberation, a jury found Ali Karimi, owner of five Zesty Market stores in Ottawa, guilty of criminally harassing and extorting money from two employees, as well as attempting to extort money from a third employee.
Karimi had accused the employees of theft, told them they had to pay back the money or he would call police and have them deported back to Iran.
He was found not guilty of one count of criminal harassment and one count of attempting to extort money from the wife of one of the two employees.
A mistrial was declared on two counts of possession of money obtained by crime.
Meanwhile, Nava Vosough, Karimi’s wife, was acquitted of two counts of criminal harassment as well as attempted extortion.
During the trial, one of the employees, Yashar Kablou, testified that Karimi demanded $50,000 after Kablou tried to take $300 from the cash register at the Elgin Street Zesty Market in April 2007.
Kablou, 28, explained that he had left a note explaining he was taking the money because Karimi owed him back wages. A mechanical engineering student at Carleton University, Kablou said it was to be his last shift before he moved to Kitchener-Waterloo to start an internship.
However, before Kablou could leave the store, an angry Karimi – who seemed to have been watching on video surveillance – showed up and accused him of being a thief. Kablou said Karimi picked up the phone and threatened to dial 911, but, instead of making the call, Karimi demanded money.
Kablou paid Karimi $9,500 before going to the police. He told jurors he feared deportation.
“I came to Canada to start a new life. I thought all of that was gone,” he said in court last month.
Another employee, Farzad Panahi, 41, told jurors during the trial he was so terrified Karimi would call police that he agreed to sign two confession letters, including one claiming he owed $90,000 and every deposit he ever made to his bank account was stolen money.
Panahi, who was earning just $6 an hour and being paid under the table, went to the bank repeatedly and drained $33,500 from his GICs and chequing account to give to Karimi.
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