Calgary Ponzi-scheme trial: Alleged victims hope for guilty verdict
Milowe Brost and Gary Sorenson accused of bilking 2,000 investors of up to $400M
Alleged victims of what's been called one of the largest Ponzi-type schemes in Canadian history say jail time for the two Calgary men accused in the case would provide some closure.
Gary Sorenson, 71, and Milowe Brost, 61, pleaded not guilty to two charges each of fraud and theft. Brost also pleaded not guilty to a charge of money laundering.
The charges stem from business activity between 1999 and 2008. Police have said more than 2,000 investors around the world lost between $100 million and $400 million in the alleged scheme. The Crown says many lost their life savings, retirement plans and even the equity in their homes.
Gloria Lozinski says her sister, 42-year-old Edna Coulic, killed herself after losing $300,000. Her family says based on writings left behind by Coulic, it was the financial loss that led to the vibrant woman's suicide.
"It broke her in more ways than one," said Lozinski. "She couldn't bear it. She took it too personal."
Genie and Helmut Vollmer invested about $400,000 of their retirement savings through Brost and Sorenson.
"We worked hard all of our life, and we saved, and were looking forward to a nice retirement and to help our children and now we lost it," said Helmut Vollmer.
The jury is sequestered until a verdict is reached but there's only one outcome that would bring closure to the victims.
"I would like to see justice put them in jail — both of them," said Genie Vollmer. "One is just as guilty as the next."
"I truly hope that the court system and the justice system will see that they truly need to get punished," said Lozinski.
Crown lawyer Brian Holtby says the general public can learn a lesson from the trial. He told the court that Sorenson and Brost pursued a joint criminal enterprise in which each played an active part.
“There used to be a time when all of society operated on trust. I don’t think that’s as much anymore,” he said.
“The message we’re hoping to send is police can’t be everywhere, regulators can’t be everywhere and people have to be careful with their money.”
But Brost’s lawyer Cory Wilson says he’s hopeful the jury will find his client not guilty.
“I think the way the evidence came out, the Crown's theory, what had happened throughout the entirety of the investment structure dating back to 1999 — it's our hopes that the jury sees it for what it was," he said.
“When it came down, there was third-party representations that Mr. Brost relied on throughout the entirety of the investment and that's what we're hoping for.”
With files from Meghan Grant