Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ontario man charged in alleged US$70m Ponzi scheme

The Canadian Press
 An Ontario man charged by American authorities four years ago in an alleged US$70 million Ponzi scheme has been arrested after arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International airport.

Ontario Provincial Police say Nicholas Smirnow, of Lake of Bays, and his wife Dianna were arrested Friday night on outstanding warrants after getting off a plane from the Philippines.

Police have charged Nicholas Smirnow with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and one of possession of property obtained by crime in what a U.S. district attorney alleges was a scheme defrauding more than 40,000 people in upwards of 120 countries.

The Southern District of Illinois attorney charged Smirnow in absentia back in 2010 with 10 counts including mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering.

It’s alleged the 56-year-old ran a Ponzi scheme between 2007 and 2009 from Canada and the Philippines using a website called “Pathway to Prosperity” that offered investors high rates of annual return — up to 17,000 per cent in one example.

Assistant United States Attorney Bruce Reppert says they’re aware of Smirnow’s arrest but declined comment as extradition requests are handled by a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, which couldn’t be immediately reached.

“We absolutely are aware of the circumstances” Reppert told The Canadian Press in an interview Tuesday.

There was an attempt in 2010 to have Smirnow extradited from the Philippines but “We never got a hold of him,” Reppert added.

Provincial police also allege Dianna Smirnow, 44, defrauded the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services of a “substantial amount” of money in 2008 but left the country before she could be arrested. They’ve charged her with social service fraud over $5,000 and making a false statement in writing.

She is due in court Dec. 22 while Smirnow is scheduled to face his charges on Jan. 5.

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