Phone fraud suspect confused
Doesn't deny calls, but says he did no wrong

by Jennifer Pritchett
and P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

Other developments
Caught up in long-distance charges

NNSL (Feb 03/97) - One of the men charged in last week's phone fraud bust denies doing anything wrong.

"I called (NorthwesTel) and asked them how come I can call Somalia or any place in Africa, but I can't call Edmonton," said Yellowknife's Mohamud Jama. "But they didn't even understand what I was saying."

Jama said that request was made a month ago, after asking for long-distance service to be reconnected to his home phone.

He had ordered the service locked about six months ago to prevent friends from making expensive calls from his phone while he was on vacation, he said.

In late December, he began making long-distance calls to his relatives in Somalia, but when he tried to call Edmonton and Toronto, the calls wouldn't go through.

"We got a letter from (NorthwesTel) that said they were having computer system problems," said Jama. His December telephone bill detailed no long-distance charged.

"I was waiting for the next bill, but the police came through the door instead and took me away in handcuffs," Jama said.

Police, armed with a comprehensive search warrant, went through his tiny three-bedroom apartment on 54th Street, but Jama said they took nothing, not even his phone.

The search warrant states police can search for such things as telephones and telephone books, bills, tools, bank records and cards, computer equipment and citizenship and immigration papers.

"I told them exactly what I told my lawyer and what I'm telling you guys. I have nothing to hide," Jama said.

He said police showed him two Somali telephone numbers, one to his uncle, the other to a cousin -- and asked if he had called those numbers.

Jama told them he did, but didn't think he was doing anything wrong.

Last Thursday night Jama showed News/North reporters how he made the calls -- dialing directly through to Sweden to talk with a cousin, whom he got out of bed at four in the morning.

He also tried to call Edmonton and the east coast, but each was refused.

When asked if he would pay a long-distance bill if NorthwesTel gave him with one, Jama said he would.

But he maintains he has used no "black-box technology" -- wires, secret codes or computer technology -- to get around paying long-distance charges.

"I wouldn't be driving cab for 17 hours a day if I had this technology," said Jama.

Neither police nor NorthwesTel officials were prepared to discuss Jama's claims.

A Canadian citizen, Jama said he's lived in Yellowknife for about six years, but he's been in Canada for 10 -- previously living in Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver.

"I like it here. I have a friend who's been here for a long time. It's nice," said Jama.

However, he said that since news reports on the bust have been published, the whole community thinks all "black guys" are criminals.

"We can't even work. We have a bad name in the whole town. I want the whole community to know the truth," said Jama.