Saskatchewan

Crown suggests 10-year prison term for Regina businesswoman in $5M fraud case

Alena Pastuch was convicted of defrauding multiple investors of a combined total $5.5 million. On Thursday, the Crown suggested she should spend ten years in prison while the defence asked for six years in a healing lodge.

Victim impact statements detail feelings of shame, guilt

Alena Pastuch shields her face from cameras as she enters court for one of the days of her long trial. (CBC)

The Crown prosecutor in a multi-million dollar fraud trial said the businesswoman responsible should be sentenced to ten years in prison.

Alena Pastuch was found guilty in June of defrauding investors $5.5 million between 2007 and 2009. Her sentencing hearing was Thursday in Regina Court of Queen's Bench.

Most of the investors were elderly and many were relatives who were under the impression that their money would be used in the development of computer security and child protection software. 

Instead, Pastuch used the money to live a lavish lifestyle rich with travel, gambling and expenses like a home and car. At one point, she tried to fund a band called Volcanoless In Canada. 

Pastuch was found guilty of fraud, money laundering and theft. However, Justice Richard Elson stayed the latter two charges, despite finding Pastuch guilty, on the principle that no person is to be punished more than once for the same offence.

Defence suggests 6 years served at healing lodge 

Pastuch represented herself during a lengthy trial that spanned five months and involved about 80 witnesses.

Defence lawyer Kevin Hill appeared on her behalf at the senctencing hearing and asked Elson to settle on six years for Pastuch, noting her preference for a healing lodge. 

Pastuch appeared in court by video, as she's been remanded to custody since the guilty verdict. She was hardly visible for the duration. Pastuch crouched over throughout the proceedings and let her hair hide her face when she did stand. Hill said her crouched position was to alleviate discomfort. 

"I'm sorry for what happened," Pastuch said as the hearing came to a close, adding she felt badly for the impact "this" has had on the investors' lives. 

White collar crime can be 'life altering' 

Crown prosecutor Dane Brule said commercial crime is "life altering" and that perpetrators should be held accountable. 

He read 18 victim impact statements into the record that detailed the anger, shame and hurt felt by investors who lost thousands of dollars. 

​The investors wrote about crushed dreams and depleted funds that would have gone to inheritance, retirement, or post-secondary education for their children.  

Many people contributed at least $10,000 into the five phoney companies, but one investor gave $1.2 million. 

A man who invested $200,000 into Pastuch's scheme said his retirement is not what he imagined, he had to work until 70, put a mortgage on his house at age 77 and had to sell his mobile home in the U.S. 

One couple wrote, "they say to pay it forward, in our case, please pay it back."

Another man talked about selling a condo to pay off his debt, while yet another mused about working in the declining oil field industry. He's now strapped for money and plagued by sleepless nights, wondering what happened to his $55,000. 

They repeated sentiments of being robbed, duped, cheated and ripped off in Pastuch's plot. They also wrote about the guilt they felt, because many had convinced other people to invest, too. 

One man said, "she played me and others like I had never seen before."   

Elson noted he had never done more research prior to a sentencing hearing and reserved his decision until Friday at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench.

About the Author

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer began her journalism career in print as a newspaper reporter in Saskatoon and then as a feature writer in Bangkok. She joined CBC Saskatchewan in 2016. Latimer shares stories on web, radio and television. Contact her: kendall.latimer@cbc.ca