Sara Sadat’s trusting nature has put her Charlottetown restaurant in peril – a business the woman has tirelessly poured her heart and soul into for more than five years after fleeing turmoil in her native Afghanistan.
She owns and operates Sadat’s Cuisine on University Avenue, serving up traditional Middle Eastern dishes prepared using old family recipes.
She and her husband, Said Akbar, worked hard, along with their children, to get the business off the ground at its first location at the corner of Cumberland and Grafton streets, across the street from Holland College.
“We had some struggles, but we never complained,’’ says Sara.
“We started this from nothing.’’
Now she fears her restaurant may slip away because she trusted a man who preyed on her good faith.
She lost more than $10,000 in a scam that involved a man using a stolen credit card to order food for 80 people and convincing Sarah to e-transfer thousands of dollars for a catering expense he promised to reimburse. He cancelled the order after the food was prepared and never reimbursed Sadat.
On top of that hit, the company Sadat used for credit and debit charges, Elavon Canada Company, is hounding her for $12,281 in outstanding debt which also arose from the scam.
“I can’t pay because I don’t have that money,’’ she says.
Making a bad situation even worse, Sara currently is unable to accept credit or debit – only cash – at her restaurant, resulting in a notable drop in business that is further putting the viability of the restaurant in jeopardy.
She feels she is fighting a losing battle with Elavon, which has repeatedly sought payment of the more than $12,000 owing.
“I want to fight for my name,’’ she says.
“I am not responsible for someone’s stolen credit card.’’
Elavon declined comment on the situation.
Have you been the victim of a scam?
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has information about what to watch for and how to avoid scams. You can also report fraudulent activity to the centre by clicking here.
Sara, though, is a fighter.
She and her family have faced overwhelming adversity in the past.
Her husband, Said Akbar, lost his father to warlords that murdered and raped thousands. Said Akbar was beaten badly by warlords hell-bent on convincing him to hand over one of his sisters.
Instead, he gathered up Sara, the couple’s two young children, his three sisters and brothers and fled the troubled country.
While in Turkey, Said Akbar tried to cross the border to find work but was caught and put in jail. He was tortured during his year in jail before Amnesty International was able to secure his release.
The family would go on to embark on an exhausting trek from Afghanistan to Russia, crossing Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. They travelled under the cover of night. They trekked endless kilometres on foot, making headway at times by taxi.
The growing family – it would number seven when the Sadats eventually came to Prince Edward Island – spent four years in Russia. In 2007, the family was accepted in Canada as refugees.
The members of this resilient clan were determined to succeed here.
Said Akbar took a job at the Confederation Centre of the Arts as a cleaner and worked as a mechanic for the city’s transit system.
Sara worked at Walmart in customer service.
FIRST HALAL RESTAURANT
In March 2014, the couple opened Sadat’s Cuisine, the province’s first halal restaurant.
Halal meat is meat that is permissible according to Islamic law. The meat must come from animals that have been humanely slaughtered and prepared using a process that is strictly spelled out.
Said Akbar left the restaurant largely in Sara’s hands to work at the Atlantic Beef Products plant in Borden as the halal butcher in 2015.
Sadly, he has been out of work since March 20 due to a string of concussions delivered by kicking cows.
“It’s a very dangerous job,’’ he says.
Still, the Sadats have embraced Prince Edward Island, showing great perseverance in carving out the best life possible.
Four of the couple's five children, who range in age from 16 to 30, have completed university or college with the 16-year-old still in high school.
Sarah's parents have also been living on P.E.I. since September, 2018 thanks to the efforts of several families raising money to make the long-sought reunion possible.
Now Said Akbar hopes to weather his concussion and Sara is eager to keep serving up delicious food at Sadat’s Cuisine.
Sara is selflessly telling her story of falling victim to a scam as a cautionary tale to urge business people to be constantly on guard, especially when dealing with large transactions.
She declined an offer to have an online fundraising campaign started to help offset her losses. She is, however, seeking to find a successful way to move forward.