Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
BARRIE — A complex Ponzi investment scheme involving point of sale debit terminal — originating here in 2012 — that duped 515 people out of $56 million has led to fraud charges against a local man.
Charles Debono was in court in Barrie today after being deported from the Dominican Republic.
Provincial police say Ontario’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) returned the 62-year-old Barrie resident to Canada to face several charges following what it is calling a “landmark international fraud investigation.”
They say that in September 2018, the SFO began looking into a “complex ‘Ponzi’ scheme” involving the sale of point of sale debit terminals.
The victims believed they were buying the terminals from a company called Debit Direct to be placed in businesses across Canada and the U.S.
The victims were told they would receive a royalty of 15 cents-per-transaction on each purchase made using the terminals.
Victims were unaware that the point of sale terminals never actually existed, and any “profits” they received were actually obtained from money invested by new “investors.”
The victims initially came forward with their complaints to nine different police agencies across Canada and the probe was referred to the OPP’s Anti-Rackets Branch in March 2018, and later transferred to the new Serious Fraud Office.
Police say about 515 known victims suffered losses totalling more than $24-million since the scheme originated in 2012 in Barrie; while the accused is believed to have collected more than $56-million from victims who believed they were investing in a legitimate investment opportunity.
Debono is charged with:
- Fraud Over $5,000 – Section 380(1)(a)
- Laundering Proceeds of Crime – Section 462.31(1)(a)
- Bribery of Agent – Section 426(1)(a)
- Personation with Intent – Section 403(1)(a)
- Use, deals, acts on Forged Document – Section 368(1)(a)
He was deported to Canada from the Dominican Republic and arrested in Toronto by the OPP.
As part of the investigation, approximately $1.5-million was 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 email@example.com
The SFO says it worked with the Canada Border Services Agency, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Canada Revenue Agency, the Dominican Republic National Police, and Interpol during this investigation. It also had help from the RCMP, police in Toronto, Calgary and Barrie, which also received complaints.
The SFO relied on Camden Assets Recovery Inter-Agency Network (CARIN) and Asset Recovery Interagency Network – Caribbean (ARIN-CARIB) to help locate assets in the Dominican Republic.
DID YOU KNOW:
A Ponzi scheme is a pattern of fraud that lures investors by paying profits to early investors with profits from more recent investors.
Ontario’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is a multi-disciplinary team of uniform and civilian subject matter experts who investigate and prosecute serious fraud and complex financial crimes. It partners with Ontario’s the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) and Ministry of the Solicitor General (SOLGEN), and also partners with municipal police services in Ontario.
They say serious fraud is defined as fraud that has significant impact on society and/or significant financial loss in totality.
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