'We have no more money': victim in alleged nearly $2 million Ponzi scheme
Police have charged an Edmonton woman in an alleged Ponzi scheme involving members of the city's Filipino community with losses totalling nearly $2 million.
Police say the investment scheme led 49 Edmonton-area investors to lose a combined total of just over $1.8 million.
Carmelita Del Rosario, 42, is alleged to have led a fraudulent investment operation between February 2009 and May 2012 enticing nearly 50 investors with high returns if they participated in a Workers' Compensation Board investment plan.
Police allege Del Rosario promised shareholders they would receive whatever funds were leftover each year from the WCB’s payout.
“The premise of the offence was that money was taken in, in order to invest with worker’s compensation board, but of course, Workers' Compensation Board is not an investment company,” Staff Sgt. Dan Service with the Edmonton Police Service’s economic crimes unit said on Tuesday.
Ponzi schemes are fraudulent investment operations where returns are paid to investors using money from secondary investors - until investors and the money runs out.
Police say the alleged victims of the fraud were primarily from the local Filipino community, like Del Rosario.
"People generally utilize the relationships of people they know and trust in their communities, whether it’s a church community, an ethnic community or a work community," Service said.
"I would suspect that in this case what happened was the first few people who were told about the investment, were then convincing other people that it was a good deal."
'We have no more money'
Maria Que and Zita Casas both say they lost money in Del Rosario’s scheme.
Que says she handed over more than $50,000 while Casas says she gave Del Rosario about $140,000. Now their lives have changed.
“Before, we were better off,” Casas said. “Now we’re tight because of what we lost. We have no more money.”
Que has had to pick up extra shifts at work in order to make up for the losses.
“I have to work more, get more hours, and try to save. That money I invested, me and my husband saved. It’s really hard to believe but we have to go on life I guess,” she said.
Casas says some victims who invested had to borrow money and even re-mortgage their homes.
"It's hard. It's sad. These people, the victims, they are not wealthy people," Casas said.
'Victimization traverses Canadian borders into the Philippines'
Police said investors like Que and Casas gave money under the impression that they would get between a five and 15 per cent return.
“These people are generally supporting family in the Philippines. The loss to them is tremendous. The level of victimization traverses Canadian borders into the Philippines as well,” Service said.
“I don’t suspect they’ll ever receive money from the person responsible and will they be able to recover financially? I certainly hope so but it’s a difficult road.”
Police say only a small amount of invested money has been recovered and there is no money left to be recovered.
The Workers’ Compensation Board confirms with CTV News that Del Rosario was a former WCB employee who is no longer employed with the company.
“WCB funds were not involved in this alleged scheme in any way,” Shawn Friedenberger, with the WCB, said in a statement issued to CTV.
“We are not an investment firm and we do not take investments from private citizens.”
Que and Casas say none of the victims checked with the WCB on the investment operation because they claim Del Rosario said she was including them in on a special deal.
“She said, ‘oh this is supposed to be just for my relatives, but I’ll let you in any way,” Que said.
Del Rosario has been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000.
Her next court appearance is April 30.