Watchdog says couple bilked $1M from investors
Darcy Wintonyk, ctvbc.ca
Published Friday, July 8, 2011 2:52PM PDT
B.C.'s securities watchdog says a Vancouver couple bilked 21 investors out of more than $1 million by selling bad shares in a company that produces a hair-restoration product.
Ronald James Conn and his wife Sze Man "Ella" Conn were arrested outside of a Vancouver home last week after a lengthy investigation by the B.C. Security Commission's Criminal Investigations Team and the Vancouver Police Department.
Ronald Conn faces 15 counts under the Criminal Code and 119 counts under the Securities Act for unlawful trading, fraud and breach of bail conditions. Ella Conn is charged with five counts under the Securities Act and 15 under the Criminal Code.
The BCSC says Ronald Conn, and to a lesser extent his wife, solicited over a million dollars from investors between July 2008 and 2010, while he was already banned from trading securities in British Columbia.
Authorities say the couple conducted illegal activities from multiple offices in Vancouver's West Side and Coquitlam.
Ella Conn has been released on bail, while her husband remains in custody awaiting a bail hearing.
This is the third arrest for Ronald Conn and second for Ella Conn related to illegal trading in the securities of the company Follicles. The previous arrests stem from 20 charges against the couple.
Ronald Conn has a lengthy history with the BCSC, with infractions and investigations dating back 14 years.
Ronald Conn was handed a 15-year ban from trading in 1997 for his involvement with Mindoro, a gold and platinum mining exploration company. He also received a $50,000 administrative fine, which he has yet to repay, according to the BCSC. Two other officers of Mindoro were found guilty of distributing shares illegally to 170 investors and lying about the potential earning returns.
In that case, the BCSC concluded that Conn illegally distributed thousands of inflated and illegal company shares while working as an experienced mutual funds salesman – the type of activity he had a professional obligation to prevent.
Ronald Conn induced clients to invest in Mindoro, with his success earning him almost $400,000 US in sales commission. Conn found many of his investors through a course he taught through the Vancouver School Board called Successful Money Strategies Seminars. The course was advertised as introducing participants to wise money management, including maximum investment returns.
The BCSC said that after Ronald Conn realized that Mindoro was a scam, he started another illegal distribution with a company called La Paloma "in a desperate attempt to recoup his clients' investment."
Ronald Victor Markham, whom the BCSC called "the mastermind" behind the Mindoro plan, received a lifetime ban from trading and a $100,000 fine for his participation.
Because Ronald Conn was banned from trading at the time of his arrest, some of the securities charges are upgraded to more serious charges under the Criminal Code.