Milowe Brost, Gary Sorenson sentencing to hear from 500 Ponzi victims
Incredible number of victims registered statements, request restitution ahead of sentencing hearing
It's a criminal case that has always been about big numbers.
And while the latest number attached to the Milowe Brost and Gary Sorenson case is also large, it's the one that humanizes the cumbersome, complicated fraud.
More than 500 of Brost and Sorenson's Ponzi scheme victims have sent statements to the prosecution detailing their emotional and financial hardships.
"The response we received from victims was much greater than I expected and far larger than any previous case we have had," said senior Crown prosecutor Brian Holtby.
The statements will be entered as exhibits during a two-day sentencing hearing in Calgary set for Monday and Tuesday.
Over a nine-year period, more than 2,000 investors lost between $100 million and $400 million in a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the former business partners. It's considered one of the largest in Canadian history.
Brost, 61, and Sorenson, 71, were each convicted of two counts of fraud and two counts of theft in February after a five-month jury trial. The charges stem from business activity between 1999 and 2008.
Victim impact statements are prepared ahead of a sentencing hearing and can be read aloud before the judge and offender. It's an opportunity for victims to express how a crime has affected their lives and the harm or losses they've suffered.
Though all of the documents will become exhibits, Holtby estimates between 25 to 50 people who submitted victim impact statements have indicated they want theirs to be read aloud in court.
Many of Brost and Sorenson's victims lost their life savings, and one lost her life.
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 right before the guilty verdict. "She couldn't bear it."
The prosecution is also tasked with facilitating restitution requests and in this case, more than 850 have been made.
"I am not sure Parliament realized the heavy burden it would place on provincial prosecution services when it enacted some of the restitution provisions in the Criminal Code," said Holtby. "But of course we are happy to do everything we can to make sure the victims of this type of fraud are heard."
Holtby says one of the challenges is keeping victims' expectations in check. It's still not known if Justice R.J. Hall will make an order for restitution, or if there's even any money to be recovered.
"We have done our best not to raise false hopes about restitution because we simply don't know what, if any, assets the accused still control."
The prosecution hopes the final number involved in this story will also be a big one. Immediately after their convictions, Holtby indicated to the judge that he would seek the maximum sentence for fraud allowed under Canadian law, which is 14 years.