ALBERTA

Robert Sellars, Calgary Man Who Ran Ponzi Scheme, Sentenced To Jail

08/01/2013 05:43 EDT | Updated 10/01/2013 05:12 EDT
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CALGARY - A Calgary man was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday for an investment scam in which he cheated clients, friends and family out of millions of dollars.

Robert Sellars, who is 76, pleaded guilty to fraud earlier this year for bilking 350 mostly Calgary-area investors of almost $27 million.

Court heard Sellars used his contacts from 50 years in the insurance business to attract clients to invest in his new company.

He said the money was being invested in gold mines, gravel quarries and overnight, interest-rate differentials on European banks. He promised annual returns of 15 to 18 per cent and as high as 36 per cent.

But it was all a Ponzi scheme. Money received from newer investors is used to pay interest payments guaranteed to older investors.

The company eventually went into bankruptcy.

"Reading the victim impact statements is heartbreaking," said Alberta provincial court Judge Catherine Skene.

She also ordered Sellars to repay close to $10 million dollars in restitution to some of his clients, but admitted she "saw little sign" he would be able to do so.

Sellars had already served a two-year jail term after previously pleading guilty to violations under the Alberta Securities Regulations for taking investments, keeping the principle and not paying returns.

Both the Crown and defence made a joint submission asking for the four-year term and pointed out Sellars had not been living a lavish lifestyle.

Crown prosecutor Shelley Smith said there were a number of aggravating factors.

"The offender took advantage of the high regard he was held in the community," she said. "His actions had a huge impact on his victims."

But Smith said Sellars does deserve some credit for the early plea.

"Mr. Sellars has accepted full responsibility for the investment scheme and has shown genuine remorse."

Lawyer Don Macleod said his client made a mistake and could have retired comfortably from the insurance industry if he had not got involved in the investment scam.

"He now finds himself living in subsidized housing," Macleod said. "He has not lived a handsome lifestyle."

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