The perpetrator of an elaborate Ponzi scheme that targeted dozens of members of B.C.'s Korean religious community has been ordered to pay more than $47 million.

The B.C. Securities Commission Panel permanently banned Sung Wan (Sean) Kim from trading on Wednesday, saying the Korean man intentionally stole $15.7 million from 35 B.C. investors and one Korean investor.

The board says Kim began taking their money three years ago, when he befriended members of a church congregation that trusted him with their life savings.

Related: Read the decision

Kim took in millions of dollars under the company name Cirplus Futures Inc. between Jan. 2007 and July 2009, promising returns of five-per-cent a month, or 60 per cent annually. Others investors were guaranteed returns in US treasury bills ranging from 26 to 44 per cent.

In reality, there were no investment accounts. Kim was depositing the money, some $13.7 million, into a personal bank account.

The panel said almost no investors received any returns on their investment and all of them lost their entire principal. One individual, who invested $1.4 million, testified he is essentially bankrupt.

BCSC Enforcement Director Lang Evans called the fraud "despicable and unprecedented."

"He used his connections to that community to establish trust and then steal their money and bankrupt them – he betrayed his congregation," Evans told

Kim began giving investors letters and memos with a forged BCSC logo, saying their accounts were under the regulatory agency's supervision. Other statements, showing fake profits, urged people to invest more money.

In one such letter, Kim said the reason investors weren't receiving returns was because of a BCSC audit and fine that "had required it to change its payout schedule to investors."

It was when someone came forward to the agency with one of the forged letters that the agency launched an investigation and took regulatory action against Cirplus.

"Unfortunately it was too late. He took investors money and fled the country," Evans said.

Two days before he was shut down, Kim took the millions and fled to Korea.

With the help of evidence from British Columbia, Kim was arrested and charged by Korean authorities in Oct. 2009. Less than two months ago, Kim was sentenced to 10-years in prison, which he is currently appealing.

Korean prosecutors built their evidence around the B.C. case, with BCSC investigators providing lawyers with forged letters and victim testimonies.

On Wednesday, the BCSC ordered Kim to pay back more than $46 million -- $13.7 million to his victims and an administrative fine of $26 million. The BCSC said it could have asked for $1 million per contravention, which would add up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ponzi schemes like this are almost impossible to detect unless someone comes forward with a concern, Evans said, adding that if people should contact Invest Right if they are suspicious.

"He hid everything," he said. "It's just tragic. These victims will suffer for decades."