When Ramona Gallagher was fighting with her mortgage broker over possession of her home, she wondered how many other clients like her might be out there.
"You feel like you're fighting alone," she said.
Now, police are investigating the broker and his licence has been suspended by provincial regulators.
Those regulators allege the broker's behaviour fits a pattern.
So Gallagher knows there are many more like her, and some who even fared worse.
Now, to find them.
- Police search office of suspended mortgage broker Dennis Khanna
- Mortgage broker suspended, alleged to have preyed on desperate clients
- Province didn't warn borrowers about problems with mortgage broker
Gallagher has found it harder than she expected to find others in the same boat — for purposes of banding together to sue, or at least swapping stories in solidarity.
Some are embarrassed and don't want to raise their hands as victims. "You're putting yourself out there to say, 'Hey, I got ripped off," she said.
Regulators allege that Gallagher's broker, Dinesh Khanna, preyed on desperate borrowers who couldn't get loans elsewhere, applying aggressive terms and then taking control of their property when they "inevitably default on their mortgages."
But the agencies investigating, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and the Hamilton Police Service, aren't in a hurry to give her names of others who've come forward.
"The agencies that are supposed to help you, you have to do this all on your own," Gallagher said. "They don't connect you."
Police say that's on purpose in fraud investigations.
"We do not put victims in touch with other as we do not want what they have to say (evidence) to be influenced / tainted by speaking to each other," said Acting Insp. David Hennick, an investigator with Hamilton Police.
'Pattern of manipulation and exploitation'
But Gallagher made some headway recently, as her broker, Dennis Khanna, has shown up in the news and more people have been coming out of the woodwork.
Khanna's licence and the licence of his Metro Financial Planning, Limited brokerage was suspended by provincial regulators in December, alleging that he carried out a "pattern of manipulation and exploitation" of his clients through his Metro Financial Planning Limited business.
The regulator, FSCO, is pushing for the licences to be completely revoked. That's the subject of Financial Services Tribunal hearings that began last month.
Hamilton Police's fraud team is also investigating, and police searched Khanna's office and home earlier this month, though no fraud charges have been filed.
Hamilton Police have also charged Khanna with sexual assault.
None of the allegations against Khanna have been proven in court or in the Ontario Financial Services Tribunal, though Khanna is appealing the regulator's decision. Brian Duxbury, an attorney representing Khanna in the tribunal hearings, has not respond to requests for comment.
'I want people to come together'
Gallagher wants to pursue civil action at the same time as other recourse unfolds.
She has been leaving comments on news stories and has written a post shared a dozen times on Facebook, trying to connect with any of the others who say they also had issues with Khanna.
"I want people to come together – that's the biggest thing," she said. "The more that we come together, the more that we can support each other. The fact that people know that they have a venue to at least talk with each other."
She said she understands the police don't want people to compare notes and share detailed stories. But she does to pass on what she knows, she said.
Plus, together, they could pool whatever dollars they have left to hire a lawyer to sue him. "It's astonishing how much it costs."
Gallagher is trying to rally a group of victims to split the cost of suing Khanna for damages. She said some of them are meeting later this month with an attorney.
"I will do anything I can to shut this guy down," Gallagher said.
After more than $100,000 and months headaches, Gallagher and her husband were able to keep their house and buy out the mortgages they had obtained through Khanna, she said.
But there are others who still have active loans, who aren't sure whether they should still be sending cheques.
"There were people who, just up until a couple of months ago, just signed up with him," she said. Some of them received loans he brokered between them and his family members, she said. "People are still paying him or whoever, and they're wondering should they keep paying?"
Asked what those people should do, FSCO, the regulator, said that "clients who have signed a mortgage contract with a lender financial institution are bound by that contract. Any client who fails to make borrower payments would be subject to the provisions set out in the mortgage agreement."
The regulator's spokesman Malon Edwards included a sentiment that's familiar by now to borrowers like Gallagher:
"Clients should seek independent legal advice with respect to their personal circumstances," he said.
Hennick, from Hamilton Police, asked anyone with information about the ongoing sexual assault investigation, or who have further information "in relation to any fraud occurrences," to call police or Crime Stoppers.