Manitoba

Man named in $4.4M Ponzi scheme keynote speaker at Winnipeg event

A man banned from trading securities for life by the Ontario Securities Commission and the Manitoba Securities Commission will be the keynote speaker at a private training event aimed at Winnipeg investors on Saturday.

Sunil Tulsiani to promote Private Investment Club, organization previously used to recruit Ponzi investors

Sunil Tulsiani is a former police officer who now runs an organization called Private Investment Club. He and his club were found guilty for their involvement in a $4.4 million Ponzi scheme by the Ontario Securities Commission in 2012. (Blogspot)

A man banned from trading securities for life by the Ontario Securities Commission and the Manitoba Securities Commission will be the keynote speaker at a private training event aimed at Winnipeg investors on Saturday.

Sunil Tulsiani of Brampton, Ont. sold unregistered bonds as part of a $4,475,000 Ponzi scheme using "high pressure sales tactics" on 80 investors between 2008 and 2009, the OSC found in 2012. The risky bonds were sold mainly to members of his organization, Private Investment Club or PIC.

Of the more than $4 million raised about $1.4 million was returned to investors, the OSC said. 

Tulsiani, a former police officer with the Ontario Provincial Police, used his experience in the force to enhance his credibility with vulnerable investors, the OSC found. Some of the investors used life savings or loans to buy into the fraudulent scheme.

On Saturday, Tulsiani is the keynote speaker at an event originally advertised under the name "How to invest your retirement money (RRSP) in real estate," which now appears to be advertised under the name "How to Increase Your ROI."  An advertisement promises attendees will learn about Tulsiani's Private Investment Club. 

Organizers hope 100 people will attend Saturday's event. General admission is $97, but admission is free with a food donation to Winnipeg Harvest. VIP tickets to the event cost $497, with 10 per cent of money raised going to the ALS Society. The charity told CBC organizers did not sign a third-party agreement and it does not endorse the event.

'It really concerns us,' says investigator

The Manitoba Securities Commission (MSC) says the event raises a number of red flags.

"What we're doing is warning people about the dangers of using their RRSP money for any kind of private investment," said Len Terlinski, an investigator with the Manitoba Securities Commission.

He said the commission is issuing a warning but they have no evidence Tulsiani is breaking the law in any way.

"We're not alleging that he's done anything wrong at this point, but just it really concerns us the way this is being set up," he said.

"We put out the warning because we have concerns based on the advertisement and his previous history."

Terlinski said attendees ought to be weary of schemes known as "RRSP stripping scams" that are often touted at exclusive events and seminars.

"You cash out your RRSP, convert it into cash, send your cash off to [someone] and whatever the investment is, and he just takes a chunk of that for himself."

The MSC investigator added if people wish to invest in real estate they should consider a registered product such as a real estate investment trust which can be bought and sold on an exchange.

"The thing with a registered adviser, even if they were to steal their money — which happens — they have insurance to cover it, they have a firm backing them up," said Terlinski. 

"When you go with a private individual and you give him your money all bets are off."

Organizer calls warning ridiculous

Saturday's event organizer, Terry Stallwood, said he was "floored" by the Security Commission's warning to attendees. Stallwood is a carpenter, house flipper and real estate trainer in Winnipeg.

"It makes me feel sick," he said of the warning from the MSC. "I think they're just trying to ruin my event and it's illegal what they're doing. Just ridiculous."

Stallwood said he has known Tulsiani for years and that Tulsiani is "open" about the fact he is banned from trading for life.

"We have nothing to do with securities or trading or anything," said Stallwood. "He's not here promoting any properties. He's not selling any real estate."

Stallwood said he personally will speak about using legal means to use RRSPs to invest in real estate.

"We would never recommend anyone cash in their RRSP. That's just stupid," he said.

According to court documents from his 2012 hearing, Tulsiani said he felt "responsible" for the losses incurred by investors, and the court heard he "never intended anybody to get hurt."

While he now describes himself as a multi-million dollar investor, Tulsiani told the OSC in 2012 he had "no money" and was "in great debt." He and his company, Tulsiani Investments, were fined $281,000 after the Ponzi scheme was uncovered.

Tulsiani has an upcoming court appearance with the OSC on Feb. 6, 2017 on one count of trading without registration and one count of trading in securities while being prohibited from doing so. The charges date back to 2015.

If you are a former or current member of PIC (Private Investment Club) and would like to speak to CBC please email laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

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