Two Kitchener residents have been arrested after at least 160 investors were allegedly bilked out of $21 million between 2006 and 2010 in what RCMP are calling an "affinity fraud" that used a faith-based approach to get investors to part with their cash.
'We had victims say things like, 'He was Christian, of course I would believe him.'" - RCMP Insp. Todd Gilmore
The Kitchener RCMP Serious and Organized Crime unit arrested a married couple, Vincent Ciccone, 64, and Karen Thomson-Ciccone, 60, on Wednesday after a lengthy investigation that began in 2010.
The RCMP says that investors were lured in with promises of 20 to 30 per cent returns on investments that included resort properties, development property, and day-trading.
However, investigators determined the money was not invested but instead put into a Ponzi scheme, with newer investors providing cash that was present as returns to previous investors. The previous investors were then convinced to re-invest those returns.
Among the victims were teachers and police officers. The suspects would start meetings with prayers, a move to instill confidence in investors, said RCMP Insp. Todd Gilmore at a Wednesday news conference.
"We had victims say things like, 'He was Christian, of course I would believe him,'" he said.
Ciccone was fined $750,000 in 2012 by the Ontario Securities Commission for misleading investors and ordered to return $15 million to the OSC in the same case.
Both Ciccone and Ciccone-Thompson have been charged with fraud over $5,000 and are scheduled to appear in court in Kitchener on Wednesday.