Spared in Ontario, indicted in Nevada

A grand jury in Nevada has indicted him on four fraud charges relating to allegations he bilked investors out of more than $20-million (U.S.) and used the cash to cover personal expenses.

The Globe and Mail
September 12, 2007

Spared in Ontario, indicted in Nevada
Paul Waldie

Developer Alberto DoCouto used to be such a big fan of James Bond he named his yacht For Your Eyes Only and painted 007 on the bow.

Like his hero, Mr. DoCouto also enjoyed a flashy lifestyle and had a knack for getting out of tight situations, including walking away from fraud charges in 1998 after an Ontario judge criticized authorities for an investigation into an alleged $100-million real estate scam. The judge described the probe as flagrantly illegal, high-handed and obsessed.

But Mr. DoCouto has run into trouble again, this time in Las Vegas.

A grand jury in Nevada has indicted him on four fraud charges relating to allegations he bilked investors out of more than $20-million (U.S.) and used the cash to cover personal expenses.

He is alleged to have used the money for items such as a $415,000 convertible Bentley Azure, a $254,000 Bentley Arnage and a 6,000-square-foot house valued at around $3-million.

Court filings allege Mr. DoCouto persuaded dozens of investors, including a Japanese pension fund, to sink money into several allegedly bogus ventures. The alleged scams included mining claims in South America purportedly worth $10.7-billion and a machine that Mr. DoCouto said could clean coal.

"Once we have the analyzers and computers in place, the government of America will force all the utility plants to use this machine," Mr. DoCouto told an investor in an e-mail filed in court. "This is a miracle, that you and I have this technology, to solve the global environment crisis that exists in our world today."

One investor was so impressed by Mr. DoCouto he invested in four consecutive failed projects and lost more than $5-million, court filings allege.

Police arrested Mr. DoCouto, 64, in Las Vegas on Aug. 24 and a judge ordered him to remain in jail pending trial. He will be in court Friday for an arraignment where he will enter a plea. His lawyer was unavailable.

FBI agent Dave Nanz said several other ventures are still under investigation, including one that involved Canadian investors.

Court filings included excerpts of conversations Mr. DoCouto had with one investor who wore a secret recording device as part of a four-year FBI investigation. During one conversation, Mr. DoCouto denied pilfering money from a company called Vista Continental Development Corp. "I never, on the Bible, on the head of my children, God will cut the head of my children if I cheated Vista," he allegedly said.

The charges are the latest twist in Mr. DoCouto's colourful career. He came to Ontario from Portugal in 1971 at the age of 28 and got into the real estate business. By the late 1980s his company, Mater's Management Ltd., was planning to build a lavish mall in Ajax, Ont., and his lifestyle included an 11,000-square-foot mansion in Brampton, Ont., a James Bond-style racing boat and a villa in Acapulco.

The bottom fell out when a zealous provincial regulator alerted police to what he believed was widespread fraud at Mater's. Mr. DoCouto and several others were charged with 18 counts of fraud. After the case was dismissed, Mr. DoCouto moved to Nevada and launched several companies. He also tangled with several Vista partners in court over allegations of missing money and of destroyed company records.

Prosecutors allege Mr. DoCouto continued enticing investors into new scams as recently as Aug. 4. But he appeared to be on to the FBI investigation and told one investor in an e-mail that he was leaving for Kuwait. "I doubt you will hear from me again," he wrote just before his arrest.

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