Barrie man charged in Ponzi scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from people

Police allege there are hundreds of victims

A 62 year old Barrie man has been deported to Canada from the Dominican Republic to face charges in what Ontario Provincial Police in a media release said was a landmark international fraud investigation.

Police said Ontario’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) began an investigation in September 2018 into a Ponzi scheme that began in Barrie in 2012 and allegedly resulted in $24 million in losses affecting 515 victims. The suspect is accused of collecting more than $56 million from people who thought they were part of a legitimate investment opportunity.

The scheme involved the sale of ‘point of sale’ debit terminals. Police said the victims believed they were buying the terminals – from a company called ‘Debit Direct’ – to be placed in businesses across Canada and the United States. Victims were told they would receive a royalty of 15 cents-per-transaction on each purchase made via their point of sale terminals. Investigators said the victims did not know the terminals never existed and any “profits” they received was actually obtained from money invested by new “investors.”

Nine different police agencies from across Canada including the RCMP, Barrie Police, Toronto Police and Calgary Police received complaints from victims. The investigation was handed over to the Ontario Provincial Police Anti-Rackets Branch in March 2018, and later transferred to the newly-established Serious Fraud Office.

The suspect faces fraud, bribery, forgery and laundering charges.

As part of the investigation, $1.5 million has been restrained in Canada as proceeds of crime, while similar measures are being sought in other countries. Restitution is also being sought on behalf of the victims. The SFO encourages any victims of this crime to provide their information to the victim-focused SFO team at sfo.project.debitdirect@ontariosfo.ca

The SFO said the investigation received important contributions from the Canada Border Services Agency, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, the Dominican Republic National Police, and Interpol during the probe.