British Columbia

Fugitive Victoria investment adviser arrested in Oregon

A man accused of leaving "a trail of financial devastation and heartbreak" across Western Canada, according to B.C.'s Securities Commission, has been arrested in the United States.

An investment adviser accused of leaving "a trail of financial devastation and heartbreak" across Western Canada, according to B.C.'s Securities Commission, has been arrested in the United States.

Members of the U.S. Marshal's Oregon fugitive task force arrested 48-year-old Ian Thow as he exited a Portland condominium to go jogging Tuesday morning.

Thow will make an initial court appearance Wednesday in Federal District Court in Portland.

The former Victoria mutual funds dealer faces more than two dozen criminal charges over allegations he cheated investors out of $10 million.

He disappeared after he was last seen in 2005 driving across the Canada-U.S. border into Washington state and has yet to appear in a Canadian court to face charges.

Cory Cunningham of the U.S. Marshal's Service said Thow had been living in Seattle until he learned he was wanted by Interpol and Canadian authorities.

The Victoria police, the FBI and the Vancouver Integrated Market Enforcement Team were all involved in the case.

Preyed upon clients

Before leaving Canada in 2005, Thow allegedly got people to invest in securities that did not exist and put the money into his personal account.

In December 2007, the B.C. Securities Commission imposed its largest-ever fine against Thow — $6 million — and banned him from the securities industry after it ruled he used clients' money for luxury cars, a yacht and a personal business jet.

The commission said at the time that Thow preyed on his clients by offering non-existent securities and used the money instead to support his lavish lifestyle.

"This case represents one of the most callous and audacious frauds this province has seen," the commission said when it imposed the penalty.

Before imposing the sentence, the regulator ruled that Thow, who was senior vice-president with Berkshire Investment Group Inc., took millions from dozens, perhaps hundreds, of investors in B.C. and Alberta.

With Thow still out of the country, his lawyer took the case to the B.C. Court of Appeal, arguing that because Thow's contraventions dated back to 1996 the commission only had the right to impose a fine of $250,000, the maximum penalty at that time.

Lawyers for the securities commission acknowledged that Thow's offences occurred before the maximum administrative penalty was changed, but argued that the higher penalty authorized by 2006 legislation could be applied.

In a unanimous decision, three Appeal Court justices disagreed. The court overturned the $6-million fine and substituted a penalty of $250,000.

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