Scams and shams — November 2014

News on the scammers who didn’t get away with it, including a BC mutual fund salesman who defrauded hundreds of elderly clients out of $65 million.


BC man illegally advised seniors to invest millions in risky securities

A former Vancouver Island mutual fund salesman and radio personality who claimed repeatedly on air that he loved helping seniors make money defrauded hundreds of elderly clients out of $65 million, a British Columbia Securities Commission panel has ruled. Between 2007 and 2010, David Michaels (above, right) hosted popular weekly "Creating Wealth" radio infomercials that drew nearly 500 unsuspecting clients to his unregistered investment practice, where he advised them to sell their stocks, bonds and mutual funds — and even borrow against their homes — to purchase high-risk exempt market securities. Michaels, who said the average age of his clients was 72, earned $5.8 million in fees and commissions on the transactions. "Michaels preyed on clients by frightening them and misleading them," the BCSC panel noted in its decision.


Accountant got more than $800K in unemployment

Jasonn Gonzalez, 41, has pleaded guilty to six charges in an attempt to defraud federal and state unemployment agencies out of US$1.3 million. Between 2009 and 2012, the New Mexico accountant fraudulently registered fake companies with three state workforce agencies and then filed false unemployment claims in the names of real people. Gonzales and a codefendant received more than US$800,000 in benefits, issued as debit cards, at post office boxes in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado. At press time, Gonzales’ sentencing had not yet been scheduled. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.


Facebook pics gave away UK duo’s scam

When Liverpool couple Cheryl Patterson, 33, and David Tracey, 36, posted their vacation photos on Facebook, they didn’t think they were oversharing. What they didn’t know was that the housing benefit agency — from which they fraudulently claimed £160,000 over a five-year period by purporting to be landlord and tenant — was watching. The photos of the happy pair on a 2011 Caribbean cruise tipped off authorities that Patterson and Tracey have more than a business relationship — they have a child and live together as a family. There won’t be any more travels in the pair’s immediate future; both have been sentenced to 12 months in jail.


UK accountant stole from employer to fund lavish wedding

Dale Ballance, a 44-year-old Yorkshire management accountant, was apparently unhappy with the £10,000 annual raise she got in 2009 — a year after she joined high-end shoe firm Moda. That’s when she began writing company cheques to herself totalling £200,000 over two years, using the money to pay for her extravagant nuptials which included not one, but two, wedding dresses and a ring-bearing owl, as well as a share in a racehorse for her husband. The thefts, which Ballance claimed to be a "secret bonus system" set up by her employer, were not discovered until she left the company in 2011 after being refused an additional raise. She was found guilty of three offences of theft and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.