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B.C. man accused of duping investors out of $600K

05/30/2013 03:58 EDT | Updated 07/30/2013 05:12 EDT
The B.C. Securities Commission is investigating whether a man committed fraud by duping people into investing in a ski resort that was never built.

Following inquiries by CBC News, the commission announced today it will hold a hearing into allegations that Ron McHaffie, 62, convinced 30 investors to put a total of $642,960 into the proposed Bigfoot Resort.

The resort was to be located between Hope and Chilliwack and would, according to the project’s website, offer "unparalleled" alpine skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, trail riding, fishing, camping, boating, canoeing, rock climbing, a golf course, conference facilities and a spa.

But despite the numerous scenic photos, maps, graphs and reports supplied on the website, the money contributed by investors apparently vanished.

McHaffie told CBC News he raised as much as $2 million from investors. CBC News found the province had rejected plans for the ski resort back in 2010.

According to the B.C. Securities Commission, McHaffie continued to raise more than $111,000.

CBC News tracked down McHaffie this week and found him in a run-down trailer park in Princeton, three hours northeast of Vancouver, where he claimed he was recovering from an illness.

Investors say he has been evasive – refusing to return phone calls because of supposed cell phone issues, and claiming health problems or accidents that have put him in hospital.

Investors believed in ‘big winning ticket’

Dan Valliquette, a 32-year-old from Parksville, Vancouver Island, says he put $47,000 into the project in 2011 because he trusted McHaffie.

"He promoted it as being a big winning ticket. We were going to be on the TSX in no time, and you invest now and you are going to make a lot of money," Valliquette told CBC News.

"You should know better. Whenever there’s a lot of money being thrown around you ... but again you’re blinded by the opportunity."

Andy Schofield, a 48-year-old man also from Parksville, is another investor who says he put $200,000 in what he thought were director’s shares in the resort.

Now, Schofield is painting houses to support himself financially.

"There’s a little bit of a dreamer in all of us, I suppose, and I was dreaming big," he said.

"You know, each one of my director shares that I have ... were going to be worth $3 million each, supposedly. That’s a lot of money, right? In hindsight, I’d rather have the 200 [thousand] now."

But McHaffie says he doesn't have the money either.

"There is nothing. I don’t have money. The money was spent doing the project," McHaffie said.

"I use money to do the day-to-day work of the project and that’s what I did. If I had $100, I would spend $100 on doing stuff."

Next month, the B.C. Securities Commission will be setting a date to hear the alleged fraud and other securities act violations against McHaffie.

McHaffie insisted he could revive the Bigfoot resort project if he could somehow raise more money.

"Bear with me, as soon as I’m better, I’ll go right back at it," he said. "I’m going to need more investors."

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