Connect with us


‘Betrayal’: 10 years in prison for Calgary man in multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme


4 minute read

By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A Calgary man who bilked his clients out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $3.1 million in restitution for what the judge called a “deliberate and large-scale” fraud.

Arnold Breitkreutz, 74, was convicted in June of fraud over $5000 for what the Crown called a multimillion-dollar scheme in which investors believed they were putting money into safe first mortgages.

Court heard the money from his company, Base Financial, was instead loaned to an oil-and-gas promoter and used in a risky oil play in Texas that was secured against oil-and-gas leases and equipment.

The Crown recommended a sentence of between 10 and 12 years to send a message to others who might try a similar scheme.

Queen’s Bench Justice Colin Feasby said Breitkreutz’s actions warranted a significant sentence.

“His fraud was deliberate, large-scale and profoundly and adversely affected the lives of many victims,” said Feasby, noting the 29 victim impact statements the court received.

“These conditions were also provoked by the profound sense of betrayal experienced by many of the victims. Many of the victims had, over time, come to know and trust Mr. Breitkreutz, and some considered him to be a friend,” the judge said.

“The stark realization that he had defrauded them hit many of the victims hard.”

There were 107 victims between May 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015, who provided Breitkreutz with more than $21.4 million.

Feasby said Base Financial had been operating since the 1980s and the scale of fraud could be much higher. He said the scheme was complicated enough to fool many individuals who were retirees and planning to enjoy their sunset years.

“One of the most insidious effects of Mr. Breitkreutz’s fraud on the victims was that it robbed them of their faith and trust in others,” said Feasby.

“The victims … blame themselves for being stupid, or foolish or greedy. They are none of these things.”

Feasby rejected an argument that the sentence should be more lenient because of Breitkreutz’s advanced age and the fact he lost his own money along with that of his clients when the Ponzi scheme collapsed.

“I accept that Mr. Breitkreutz did not enjoy the flamboyant lifestyle common to many fraudsters,” Feasby said.

“So far as the court can determine Mr. Breitkreutz lost the victim’s money finding providence in unauthorized investments and then playing a shell game for years and perhaps decades to try and avoid reckoning.”

Breitkreutz showed little emotion after the sentence. Earlier this week, he issued a brief apology to his victims.

“I can feel your loss and for that I’m unbelievably and indescribably sorry. It was not my intention when I accepted your money,” he said.

“I put your money in the same place that I put my own. Nonetheless, I feel for you deeply, as much as I can and I’m sorry.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

Storytelling is in our DNA. We provide credible, compelling multimedia storytelling and services in English and French to help captivate your digital, broadcast and print audiences. As Canada’s national news agency for 100 years, we give Canadians an unbiased news source, driven by truth, accuracy and timeliness.

Follow Author


Canada under pressure to produce more food, protect agricultural land: report

Published on

Canada’s agricultural land is under increasing pressure to produce more food as demand grows domestically and internationally, while the industry grapples with limited resources and environmental constraints, a new report found. 

“We need to grow more food on less land and in a volatile climate,” said Tyler McCann, managing director of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.

The report by the institute released Thursday looks at the pressures on Canada’s agricultural land to produce more food while also mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, said McCann. 

Despite Canada being a big country, it doesn’t have as much agricultural land as people might think, said McCann, with the report noting that agricultural land makes up only around seven per cent of the country. 

Because of that, we can’t take what we do have for granted, he said. “We need to be really thoughtful about how we are using our agricultural land.” 

In 2020, Canada was the eighth largest country in terms of cropland area, the report said, with that cropland decreasing by seven per cent over the previous two decades. 

Canada is a major producer and net exporter of agriculture and agri-food products, the report said, exporting $91 billion in products in 2022, and one of the top 10 exporters of wheat, canola, pulses, pork and beef. 

In the coming years, Canada will face increased demand from countries whose populations are growing, the report said. 

“With population growth on one side and climate change on the other, Canada will be amongst an increasingly smaller number of countries that is a net exporter,” said McCann, noting that Canada’s own population is growing, and farmland also needs to be protected against urban sprawl. 

The wildfires clouding Canadian skies this week are a “vivid reminder” of the pressure that extreme weather and the changing climate are putting on the agricultural sector, said McCann. 

“We need to clearly mitigate … agriculture’s impact on climate change. But we also need to make sure agriculture is adapting to climate change’s impacts,” he said. 

One of the ways the world has responded to demand for increased agricultural production over time is to create more agricultural land, in some cases by cutting down forests, said McCann. But that’s not a viable option for Canada, which doesn’t have a lot of land that can be sustainably converted into farmland — and even if it could, doing so could have a variety of adverse environmental effects, he said. 

Some of the practices used to reduce emissions and sequester carbon in agriculture can also improve production output on existing farmland, the report found, such as precision agriculture and no-till practices.

However, intensifying the production of current agricultural land also comes with potential environmental downsides, the report said.

For example, McCann said fertilizer is an important part of sustainable agriculture, but there’s a balance to be struck because excessive use of fertilizer can quickly turn food production unsustainable. 

“We need to be a lot more thoughtful about the inputs that we’re using,” he said, adding the same can be said about the use of technology in agriculture and the policies and programs put in place to encourage sustainable intensification of Canadian agriculture. 

The report recommends that Canada adopt policies that provide financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers and develop regulatory frameworks promoting sustainable land use, as well as promoting education and awareness campaigns, so that the country can “ensure the long-term sustainability of its agricultural sector while protecting the environment.”  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


Lawyer tells Alberta’s highest court review board biased in de Grood’s case

Published on

Continue Reading