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Victoria fraudster Ian Thow denied parole

01/13/2012 03:23 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

A notorious Victoria-area investment adviser who bilked dozens of victims out of more than $8 million was denied parole on Friday at a hearing at the federal Ferndale Institution in Mission.

At the hearing convicted fraudster Ian Gregory Thow offered a long-awaited apology to his victims as he asked a pair of parole board members to let him out on day or full parole.

But are after a lengthy grilling, the board decided Thow still remains an undue risk to the community.

"You essentially robbed many of these highly vulnerable people of their quality of life," Board member Ian MacKenzie told the 50-year-old. "Your sense of insight is very limited."

"We got the distinct impression that some of your answers perhaps were rehearsed. You seem to only become emotional when you're talking about yourself or your legacy."

A B.C. provincial court judge sentenced Thow to nine years in 2010 after he pleaded guilty to 20 counts of fraud. He ran a Ponzi scheme, promising friends, family and clients high returns on fake investments.

Thow said nothing at his sentencing - a decision he said on Friday came on his lawyer's advice.

"If I had apologized, it would have been blown up as an insincere apology," he told the board. "If I'd been one of my victims, I would have wanted to hear that."

Thow began the hearing by trying to explain his crimes. He painted himself as an honest money manager who felt bad for clients who lost money when the market crashed.

"I felt somewhat responsible for that to happen," he said. "I did feel a moral or personal responsibility for the carnage that happened because of the market."

But he also said he bought a plane, ostensibly as a business investment, but ultimately for his personal use.

"It was greed," he said. "I had everything I needed, but I looked at that airplane and I thought, 'Boy, I could use one of those.'"

Spiritually lost, with his morals "out of whack," Thow claimed he deluded himself into thinking he could actually repay money he was stealing to prop up his extravagant lifestyle.

Sincerity questioned

But MacKenzie questioned Thow's sincerity, zeroing in on two elderly sisters he took for $400,000.

"They were very vulnerable," MacKenzie told Thow. "When you go to them and you basically get more money from them, what are you thinking?"

"It's unbelievable," Thow answered. "I've seriously harmed them forever. They were my favourite ladies. They were beautiful people. And they had no right to be dealt with the way I dealt with them."

A compelling speaker who claims to have reconnected with his Christian beliefs, Thow has been on five unescorted leaves of absence from Ferndale minimum security institution and dozens of escorted absences to work and attend church.

He said he's been offered a $3,000 a month job doing online marketing for a Vancouver firm that sells wallets. But board member Ulf Ottho questioned his sincerity.

"Your mouth, the way you express, it's like a dangerous weapon," Ottho said.

Thow referred to a Biblical passage which refers to the mouth being a weapon that can give life or death.

"I've seen that happen with me and my actions," he said. I've seen firsthand how it's destroyed the lives of people that were the closest to me."

Thow claimed to have changed, crying as a spoke about his "legacy," and the three of his four children who still speak to him.

"If you Google me today, my legacy is deceit. I was a cunning deceiver," Thow said. "What I want to do now is create a new legacy, somehow."

Thow can make another application for parole next year. He's eligible for statutory release on Nov. 2, 2014.

The former Victoria-area senior vice-president of Berkshire Investment Group was sentenced to nine years in prison in March of 2010 for defrauding his victims of nearly $8 million.

In December 2007, the B.C. Securities Commission imposed its largest-ever fine of $6 million against Thow and banned him from the securities industry after it ruled he used clients' money for luxury cars, a yacht and a personal business jet.

Before his arrest Thow fled to the United States in 2005, but was arrested in Portland and extradited to Canada in March 2009. He pleaded guilty to 20 counts of fraud and was sentenced to nine years in prison in March 2010, but given a credit of two years for time served.

During the sentencing Judge Jocelyn Palmer noted it was greed that led Thow to use two fictitious investment schemes to cheat his mostly elderly victims out of their life savings, causing some to lose their homes and marriages, just to support his own extravagant lifestyle.

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