British Columbia

Charges stayed in B.C. 'gifting' pyramid scheme

Criminal charges have been stayed against two B.C. women accused of running an illegal "gifting circle" after prosecutors found they weren't likely to be convicted.

Crown prosecutors found evidence no longer supported 'substantial likelihood' of conviction

Crown prosecutors found that the evidence did not suggest two B.C. women were likely to be convicted of running an illegal 'gifting' scheme. (Mike Laanela/CBC)

Criminal charges have been stayed against two B.C. women accused of running an illegal "gifting circle" after prosecutors found they weren't likely to be convicted.

Esther Ayshia Vandenbrink and Chrystal Lee Lyons were arrested by Coquitlam RCMP in 2017 and charged with illegally running a lottery.

Their charges were stayed in Port Coquitlam provincial court last week after the prosecutor received new information about the case, according to B.C. Prosecution Service spokesman Dan McLaughlin.

"After reviewing this information and the rest of the file materials, the prosecutor concluded the charge approval standard could no longer be met. In these circumstances, a stay of proceedings is the appropriate course of action," McLaughlin wrote in an email.

For criminal charges to go ahead in B.C., Crown counsel must determine that the evidence supports a "substantial likelihood" of conviction and that the public interest requires prosecution.

"In these cases, the prosecutor concluded the evidence no longer supported the test for the likelihood of a conviction and the charges were stayed," McLaughlin wrote.

Gifting circles are just the latest incarnation of the classic pyramid scheme.

In a gifting circle — also known as a gifting cloud or community — new members buy in with a "gift" of cash. They then have to recruit friends to fill in the bottom slots on the pyramid in the hope of eventually reaching the top and receiving a large payout.

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