A man accused of swindling hundreds of southern Ontario investors out of tens of millions of dollars has killed himself at his luxury home west of Toronto, police and sources have confirmed.
Robert Mander, 52, was a trusted financial adviser who persuaded dozens of wealthy business people from the Oakville region to invest millions in a complicated system of loans that promised huge returns.
But last Wednesday, the same day a group of suspicious investors went to court in Toronto asking a judge to force Mander and his company, E.M.B. Capital Growth Corp., to repay more than $16 million, Hamilton-Wentworth police were called to Mander’s home at 17 Stonebury Place near Freelton, north of Hamilton, where his body was found.
RCMP Sgt. Marc LaPorte told CBC News an investigation of Mander began in early February following a tip, and that they are evaluating their next step now that he's dead.
More than 100 others who invested with Mander or through some of his associates have been desperately trying to find out what happened to their money.
Court documents on behalf of dentist Davide Amato, who started up S.A. Capital Growth Corp. in order to do business with Mander, allege that the money has disappeared. He and the company suspect Mander was moving it around, never investing it, but shuffling it in a Ponzi scheme.
Investors, who did not want to go public, say they were lured in by Mander’s guru-like spiel.
An Ottawa native, Mander told investors he followed a strict formula for investing in startup companies and stocks valued at under $10. He recruited more than a dozen friends and associates to act as top-level investors, wooing them with promises of 25 per cent returns.
Those top-tier investors — whom Mander lavished with gifts of jewelry, watches and works of art — incorporated their own companies to gather investments from their own friends and relatives. These recruiters would cobble together large short-term loans that went to Mander or his companies on promises of an additional 25 per cent profit.
One of them, Heather Shantora of Oakville, told CBC News in an email she, her family and friends are "deeply concerned" that they have been victimized by Mander.
"This situation is heartbreaking," she said. "I am actively co-operating with the court-appointed receiver and the appropriate regulatory authorities in the hope that some recovery may be realized …"
Investors say because it was so lucrative they agreed to keep rolling over their investments, year after year, rarely cashing out. Many of those recruiter-investors, some so loyal that they went to court last week to support Mander, were shocked to learn of his sudden death, as were his neighbours on a tiny cul-de-sac of million-dollar homes east of the hamlet of Freelton.
"He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to do himself in," said neighbour Mike Brazeau.
In the last year Mander had spent close to $500,000 upgrading his newly acquired home, including an $85,000 castle-ship playhouse for his nine-year-old son, Ethan. Although he was not overly showy with his money, he told neighbour Emily Sarachman that his son "can have anything he wants."
Other than the renovations, the neighbours never saw much action at the house until March 17 when a large black truck roared into the driveway. Minutes later, emergency vehicles and police arrived.
Mander’s court proceedings that day continued without him until news reached the judge that Mander had been found dead. Justice Geoffrey Morawetz has now appointed independent receiver RSM Richter to investigate and consolidate assets.
Any tips on the Robert Mander story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
On Tuesday evening, security guards continued to patrol Mander's Freelton home and some of his heavily mortgaged properties in Oakville, including his Dunn Street Gallery.
With no record that their money was ever invested, investors now fear there will be little to recoup of the tens of millions that are missing.
They may have to wait more than six months to find out whether they have any chance of getting their money back.
Robert Kofman of RSM Richter told CBC News that several groups of investors have already been calling and making claims.
"We are looking into the affairs of Robert Mander and his various companies with a view to determining where his assets are, what they are, and once they are identified, distributing them to his various creditors," Kofman said in an a interview.
"At some point in time there would be a claim process and anybody who has a claim … would be entitled to file a claim on Mander's estate," he said.