‘They were dis­hon­est and they were greedy’

Cal­gary men jailed in Ponzi scheme

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

A judge who sen­tenced two men in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in Cana­dian his­tory on Tues­day said they were mo­ti­vated by pure greed with lit­tle thought to their thou­sands of vic­tims.

Gary Soren­son, 71, and Milowe Brost, 61, were given 12 years in prison for an elab­o­rate, mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar fraud in which in­vestors were promised un­re­al­is­tic re­turns. The two re­ceived eight months of credit for time spent in cus­tody.

Brost was also found guilty of money laun­der­ing and re­ceived a sep­a­rate, but con­cur­rent, sen­tence.

“The crimes com­mit­ted by these two of­fend­ers are two of the big­gest frauds in Cana­dian his­tory,’’ Queen’s Bench Jus­tice Robert Hall said in a Cal­gary court­room.

“They were mo­ti­vated in my mind by greed with no re­gard to the ef­fect on the many, many in­vestors they de­frauded,’’ he added.

“The loss of these large sums of money has had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the vic­tims.’’

The court said more than 2,400 in­vestors from around the world lost up to $200 mil­lion. Po­lice have es­ti­mated the fig­ure could be as high as $400 mil­lion. Many peo­ple lost their life sav­ings.

Court re­ceived 600 vic­tim im­pact state­ments be­fore a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing last month.

Hall said some of the vic­tims were left home­less, con­tem­plated sui­cide and “suf­fered shame, em­bar­rass­ment and re­jec­tion by friends and fam­ily.

“Some now view the world through a lens of sus­pi­cion and mis­trust.’’

Ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors in­cluded the length and com­plex­ity of the fraud, the im­pact on the vic­tims, the amount of money in­volved and what Hall called pure greed.

Ponzi schemes in­volve tak­ing funds from new in­vestors and us­ing them to pay old ones.

Ca­role Knopp, 69, of En­derby, B.C., lost about $130,000 and was in court for the sen­tenc­ing.

“I was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed be­cause I was hop­ing it would be at least 14 (years) and maybe more,’’ she said.

“I don’t feel so much anger. They look like hol­low, empty peo­ple and they are so­ciopaths or psy­chopaths, ob­vi­ously, to be able to not have any emo­tional re­sponse.’’

Nei­ther man ad­dressed the court.

Crown pros­e­cu­tor Brian Holtby had re­quested a 14-year sen­tence but was happy with the judge’s de­ci­sion.

“It was pure greed. There was re­ally no le­git­i­mate busi­ness pur­pose be­hind this. Ev­ery­thing was a sham vir­tu­ally from Day 1,’’ said Holtby.

CP PHOTO

Vic­tim Ca­role Knopp, right, pre­pares to speak to re­porters about the sen­tenc­ing of Gary Soren­son and Milowe Brost, found guilty of bilk­ing more than 2,000 in­vestors of be­tween $100 mil­lion and $200 mil­lion, out­side the court com­plex in Cal­gary, Alta., Tues­day.

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