B.C. fraudster gets nine years

“Thow engaged in a methodical system of fraud against persons he purported to treat as friends and family.” Judge Palmer's decision, read out to the court Thursday, was peppered with sympathy for those the former financial adviser duped and disdain for Mr. Thow. “I find Thow acted without conscience, a rampant sense of entitlement and unabashed greed that has profoundly changed the lives of his victims,” she said.

The Globe and Mail
March 5, 2010

B.C. fraudster gets nine years
Thow used money for lavish lifestyle, Ponzi-style scheme
The Canadian Press

IanThow.jpg

Former financial adviser pleaded guilty to 20 fraud charges in cheating investors of $10-million Amanda Koster for the Globe and Mail

A man who stole millions from his friends and family with what the judge called a “rampant sense of entitlement” and “unabashed greed” has been given a nine-year-prison sentence.

B.C. provincial court Judge Jocelyn Palmer gave Ian Thow two more years in prison than what was agreed to in a plea bargain, saying the law couldn't possibly redress the harm done to his victims.

“Thow engaged in a methodical system of fraud against persons he purported to treat as friends and family.”

Judge Palmer's decision, read out to the court Thursday, was peppered with sympathy for those the former financial adviser duped and disdain for Mr. Thow.

“I find Thow acted without conscience, a rampant sense of entitlement and unabashed greed that has profoundly changed the lives of his victims,” she said.

Mr. Thow, 48, pleaded guilty to 20 counts of fraud on Monday and a joint Crown and defence submission suggested Mr. Thow serve seven years in prison, minus a two-year credit for the time already served.

But Judge Palmer said courts weren't bound by plea bargains and had a duty to impose a fit sentence.

“There has been no expression of remorse in the case,” she noted.

He's also been ordered to give a sample for Canada's DNA databank.

The court heard the former Berkshire Investment Group vice-president convinced his investors to mortgage their homes, open lines of credit and take out loans that he sometimes arranged to invest in his non-existent schemes.

“He would say trust me,” the judge said of Mr. Thow to his clients. Instead, she said, he used that money to pay off his own debts, live a lavish lifestyle and pay other investors in a Ponzi-type scheme.

Mr. Thow has agreed to pay his victims restitution worth about $4-million and the judge noted that Mr. Thow was a successful entrepreneur before he stole his clients' money in 2004 and 2005.

“Given his drive to have much more than enough, he likely will be again,” she said, adding that the law couldn't possibility redress the loss to the people who were taken in by Mr. Thow.

The RCMP's Integrated Marketing Enforcement Team was pleased to hear about the sentence. It began investigating the fraud in 2005.

“This investigation has been lengthy and very stressful for the victims,” Insp. George Pemberson said in a news release.

Because Mr. Thow spent almost a year awaiting trial, that time will be doubled and taken off his sentence.

While he's supposed to serve seven years, it's unclear how long he'll have to serve before being released on parole.

Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for the B.C. Crown prosecutors office, agreed that it was unusual for a judge to go beyond a plea bargain sentence.

“It does happen occasionally. Often when it occurs it's the subject matter of an appellant ruling.”

Mr. MacKenzie wouldn't speculate on if the sentence would be appealed.

Mr. Thow, dressed in prison-issue red pants and sweatshirt, sat stoically as the judge read out her decision.

He did begin to fidget and look uncomfortable later while lawyers argued over whether Mr. Thow should give a sample to Canada's national DNA data bank.

Mr. MacKenzie said the data bank doesn't exclude white-collar criminals.

“There was a concern with respect to the potential of Mr. Thow needing to be identified by way of DNA.”

Mr. Thow has dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship.

He was arrested a year ago in Portland, Ore., by U.S. marshals who caught him as he left his condominium to go jogging. Earlier this week, the court heard victim impact statements from about a dozen mostly retired people, including some who lost their life savings.

In December, 2007, the B.C. Securities Commission imposed a $6-million fine against Mr. Thow and banned him from the securities industry. The fine was later overturned and reduced to $250,000 Just last month, Montreal financial adviser Earl Jones was given an 11-year prison term after he pleaded guilty to fraud in a $50-million Ponzi scheme.

The Ponzi scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, who in the early 1900s established a multi-million dollar scheme where early investors were paid out with money from new investors.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/ian-thow-sentenced-to-9-years-in-jail/article1489639/


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