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RCMP charge two Alberta men in $23M fraud case involving 1,300 investors

CALGARY - Two Alberta men accused of bilking 1,314 Canadian investors out of more than $23 million have been charged with fraud and theft.

RCMP allege the men behind a Calgary company called Concrete Equities Inc. promised investors huge returns if they purchased a stake in undeveloped beach property in Mexico called the Golfo de Santa Clara project.

The investors included people from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

"People invested as a limited partner to these investments and they were all putting in between $10,000 and $100,000. And these investments were RSP eligible," RCMP Sgt. Conal Archer said Wednesday.

"They put their money in and were hoping they were going to get upwards of 500 per cent returns — what these fellows were telling them."

The RCMP's financial integrity unit alleges the men diverted money to other businesses and stole investors' money from 2007 until Concrete Equities crumbled into receivership in 2009.

Dave Humeniuk of St. Albert faces charges of fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000 and money laundering, and is to appear in court Feb. 27.

A Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Varun Aurora, of Calgary, who faces fraud and theft charges. Police believe he may be out of the country.

In January 2012, both men were fined and disciplined by the Alberta Securities Commission over the sale of limited partnership securities worth $110 million.

The cases involved the Mexico project and other business deals involving Concrete Equities and Calgary office and retail buildings.

The commission ordered both men to stop trading or selling securities.

Humeniuk was also permanently banned from being an officer or a director of any financial security company and ordered to pay an administrative penalty of $3.3 million — the largest fine ever levied by the commission on an individual.

Aurora was banned from being an officer or a director of any financial security company until 2021 and ordered to pay an administrative penalty of $500,000.

Media reports say both men declared personal bankruptcy in 2009.

"Much harm resulted from all of this misconduct," reads the commission's Jan. 9. 2012 ruling.

"Prospective investors were given misleading information and denied the prospectus disclosure and registrant involvement to which they were entitled to by law."

Archer said the charges laid by RCMP pertain strictly to the Mexico beach property investment.

He said police began the probe after receiving a complaint in 2009 from an investor. A whole team of officers was assigned to the investigation last year.

With fraud prevention month set to begin in March, Archer has a tip for people who are considering where to invest their money.

"I would say to people just to do their due diligence and be very careful that they do a lot of research into the corporations that they might be investing into," he said.

"My recommendation would be not to invest in any company that has no assets."

— By John Cotter in Edmonton

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