International Ponzi scheme case put over to December

Two men accused of creating a Ponzi scheme that allegedly defrauded investors around the world of millions of dollars won’t be back in a Calgary court until Dec. 14.

CALGARY — Two men accused of creating a Ponzi scheme that allegedly defrauded investors around the world of millions of dollars won’t be back in a Calgary court until Dec. 14.

The case was put over Monday because lawyers for the two still need to be found.

Gary Sorenson and Milowe Brost are both charged with fraud and theft over $5,000 in a pyramid scheme. Neither appeared in court.

Police allege thousands of investors in Canada, the United States and overseas were swindled between 1999 and December 2008.

Investigators say the amount of money lost could be close to $400 million.

Don MacLeod, who was acting for Sorenson, said there is a massive amount of material in the case and he will help his client secure another lawyer with time to go through it all.

He said outside court that there was “absolutely nothing unusual” about the accused not appearing in court.

A handful of investors did show up, however.

Doreen Brown said she put “quite a bit” of money into the alleged scheme starting in 2007. She said she was brought in by a friend whom she now sees she trusted blindly.

“I sort of had a lot of faith in her … I suppose I should have known better, but sometimes you don’t,” Brown said.

She added she was disappointed the accused didn’t appear, saying it was unfair for them to just sit back while investors try to find out what happened to their money.

Sorenson and Brost have been free on bail.

Police have said the pair face up to 14 years in prison if convicted for what is alleged to be “the largest Ponzi-type scheme” in Canadian history.

Brost and Sorenson were charged Sept. 13. Brost was arrested at that time, but Sorenson was still at large and police believed he was living in Honduras.

He was arrested Sept. 29 after stepping off a plane at the Calgary airport. Police say he returned voluntarily after discussions between his lawyer and government officials.

RCMP say the alleged scheme involved the creation of Syndicated Gold Depository S.A., which was supposed to lend money to Merendon Mining Corporation Ltd., with the promise of a high rate of return and tax advantages.

The perks, police say, were used to entice investors to put their money into offshore shell companies, which were run by handpicked nominees and marketed by Capital Alternatives Inc. and The Institute for Financial Learning Group of Companies Inc., two firms owned by Brost.

The shell companies included Asset Trax Inc., Quatro Communications Corp., Rapid Express Corp., Strategic Metals Corp. and Merendon Mining (Nevada) Inc.

Police said last month they had interviewed about 100 investors, many of whom came forward after the charges were originally laid.

Investors have told stories of dashed retirement dreams and lost homes.

Graham McMillan created a website in 2006 warning against companies allegedly run by Sorenson and Brost after his father invested money. He has said he’s heard from people who have had to move in with relatives.

Sorenson is looking forward for the chance to clear his name, MacLeod said.

“From the moment he found out about these charges, (he) was anxious to return to face them. He maintains his innocence and he’s now determined to set about charting his course with regard to defence.”

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