09/30/2011 02:34 EDT | Updated 11/30/2011 05:12 EST

Former Norbourg executives get eight years each in massive fraud case

MONTREAL - Two men who held lofty positions with scandal-plagued Norbourg received eight-year prison terms on Friday for their roles in one of Canada's worst white-collar crimes.

Jean Cholette and Serge Beugre were each found guilty last March of more than 100 charges.

The Norbourg fraud is one of the largest in Canadian history, with some 9,200 investors being fleeced out of $115 million.

Victims have been compensated for most of the money that was lost.

Justice Marc David noted in his ruling that an exemplary sentence was necessary and that dissuasion trumped rehabilitation in the case. He said lengthy prison terms are the only way to send a strong message.

Cholette, an accountant, was considered the right-hand man to Vincent Lacroix, the mastermind of the Norbourg fraud scheme.

Cholette was found guilty of 125 counts. Some were related to fraud and others to the production of false documents.

Beugre, the company's former director general, was found guilty of 115 of the 158 charges against him.

The scam, which one judge described as the biggest in Canadian history, saw money from a Norbourg trust fund diverted by Lacroix for personal use.

Crown prosecutor Serge Brodeur had sought nine years in prison for Cholette and 10 for Beugre.

"It's a sentence that was severe and exemplary and the case merited it," a satisfied Brodeur told reporters following the sentencing.

The sentences come following two lengthy and complex trials.

In the first one, jurors concluded after 12 days of deliberations that the case was far too complex for them to reach a unanimous verdict on nearly 700 charges.

Initially, Cholette and Beugre were charged with three other men involved in the company.

The first trial lasted four months and heard more than 60 witnesses.

The Crown eventually reduced the number of total charges. Two of the three others were acquitted the second time around and one had his trial aborted.

Lacroix was sentenced to 13 years in prison in October 2009 after pleading guilty to about 200 fraud charges.

He had been sentenced to five years in prison in January 2008 after his conviction on 51 Quebec Securities Act violations. That sentence — initially 12 years — was whittled down on two appeals.

Lacroix was paroled in January after serving one-sixth of his sentence. He is living in a halfway house and doing community work.

The Lacroix sentence is the longest handed down for a white-collar crime to date in Canada.

He is to receive his full release, with parole conditions, in February 2014.