Charges have been pressed in what Ontario’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is calling a landmark international fraud investigation.
In September 2018, the SFO began an investigation 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 United States,” said the SFO.
“The victims were led to believe that they would receive a royalty of 15 cents-per-transaction on each purchase made via their point of sale terminals. Victims were unaware that the point of sale terminals never actually existed, and any ‘profits’ they received was actually obtained from money invested by new ‘investors.’”
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Victims of the scheme initially came forward with their complaints to nine different police agencies across Canada.
Since the scheme started in Barrie in 2012, approximately 515 known victims suffered losses totaling more than $24 million, and the accused is believed to have collected more than $56 million from victims who believed they were investing in a legitimate investment opportunity.
Following the investigation, 62 year old Barrie man Charles Debono was returned to Canada from the Dominican Republic and was arrested by OPP upon arrival.
He is charged with Fraud Over $5,000, Laundering Proceeds of Crime, Bribery of Agent, Personation with Intent, and Use, deals, acts on Forged Document.
“As part of the investigation, approximately $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,” said the SFO.
The SFO acknowledged the collaborative efforts made by the Canada Border Services Agency, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Canada Revenue Agency, the Dominican Republic National Police, Interpol, the RCMP, Toronto Police Service, Calgary Police Service, and Barrie Police Service.
They also acknowledged the support provided by Camden Assets Recovery Inter-Agency Network (CARIN) and Asset Recovery Interagency Network – Caribbean (ARIN-CARIB) to help locate assets in the Dominican Republic.
Any other victims of this crime are encouraged to provide their information by contacting [email protected].