By KEVIN MARTIN
The Calgary man who played a part in a $23-million investment scheme won’t serve time behind bars for his role in the fraud.
Provincial court Judge Joanne Durant on Wednesday agreed with a joint Crown and defence submission to hand Varun (Vinny) Aurora a conditional sentence for his participation in a fraud run by Concrete Equities Inc. (CEI).
Durant said during the first six months of Aurora’s sentence of two years less a day, he will be under house arrest.
He’ll have to abide by a nightly curfew for the following 14 months and must perform 240 hours of community service, the judge ruled.
Aurora pleaded guilty last week to fraud over $5,000 in a scheme focused on Mexican real estate investments.
One of those scammed was his own father, who lost the largest amount — $901,000 — in the fraud run by CEI that roped in 1,200 investors
Durant said there were several mitigating factors which justified sparing Aurora jail time, primarily the fact he pleaded guilty and his role in the fraud was limited.
But she also noted his part in the scheme left many victims in its wake.
She said statements provided by nearly 100 victims to the court spoke of “betrayal, anger, embarrassment, violation (and) shame.
“And in one case suicidal thoughts,” Durant said.
“Some have lost their homes.”
Durant said that unlike so many other fraud cases, however, Aurora didn’t benefit financially for his part in the scam.
The plot, which began in 2007, sold investor units in a Mexican development known as the El Golfo project, whose purchase price Concrete Equities greatly inflated for investors.
The company, said Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston at last week’s sentencing hearing, “purchased it for less and just pocketed the money.”
“It was an advanced hucksters’ scheme that sold people real estate that absolutely didn’t exist.”
Some of the investors’ cash was also moved into other investments not known to them, while the supposed ringleader, David Nelson Humeniuk, allegedly pocketed $1 million.
While Aurora‘s role was more supportive than leading, he signed off on offering memos and was “willfully blind” to the scam, said an agreed statement of facts.
It also stated “to the extent that money which was raised for the El Golfo project was being transferred or lent to other CEI businesses, Mr. Aurora was an officer and should have known about those transactions.”
Durant noted that since the losses exceeded $1-million, Aurora would be looking at an automatic penitentiary term today because of changes in the legislation made after the crime was committed.