CALGARY — A judge who sentenced two men in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in Canadian history on Tuesday said they were motivated by pure greed with little thought to their thousands of victims.
Gary Sorenson, 71, and Milowe Brost, 61, were given 12 years in prison for an elaborate, multimillion-dollar fraud in which investors were promised unrealistic returns. The two received eight months of credit for time spent in custody.
Brost was also found guilty of money laundering and received a separate, but concurrent, sentence.
"The crimes committed by these two offenders are two of the biggest frauds in Canadian history,'' Queen's Bench Justice Robert Hall said in a Calgary courtroom.
"They were motivated in my mind by greed with no regard to the effect on the many, many investors they defrauded,'' he added.
"The loss of these large sums of money has had a devastating impact on the victims.''
The court said more than 2,400 investors from around the world lost up to $200 million. Police have estimated the figure could be as high as $400 million. Many people lost their life savings.
Court received 600 victim impact statements before a sentencing hearing last month.
Hall said some of the victims were left homeless, contemplated suicide and ``suffered shame, embarrassment and rejection by friends and family.
"Some now view the world through a lens of suspicion and mistrust.''
Aggravating factors included the length and complexity of the fraud, the impact on the victims, the amount of money involved and what Hall called pure greed.
Ponzi schemes involve taking funds from new investors and using them to pay old ones.
Carole Knopp, 69, of Enderby, B.C., lost about $130,000 and was in court for the sentencing.
"I was a little disappointed because I was hoping it would be at least 14 (years) and maybe more,'' she said.
``I don't feel so much anger. They look like hollow, empty people and they are sociopaths or psychopaths, obviously, to be able to not have any emotional response.''
Neither man addressed the court.
Crown prosecutor Brian Holtby had requested a 14-year sentence but was happy with the judge's decision.
"It was pure greed. There was really no legitimate business purpose behind this. Everything was a sham virtually from Day 1,'' said Holtby.
"To find their moral culpability was this high was satisfying. They were dishonest and they were greedy.''
Both men are prohibited for the next 20 years from working or volunteering in any capacity that involves real property, money or valuable security of another person.
Lawyers for Brost said they may appeal.
Investors were promised a 34 per cent annual return on a ``low-risk'' investment of $99,000, which was supposed to grow to just over $1 million within eight years. They were told the business involved selling gold for refining.
One set of fraud and theft offences took place between 1999 and 2008. They involved companies named Syndicated Gold Depository SA, Base Metals Corp. LLC, Bahama Resource Alliance Ltd. and Merendon Mining Corp. Ltd.
More wrongdoing took place between 2004 and 2005 with a company called Strategic Metals Corp.
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