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Husband and wife charged in multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme


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March 23, 2021

Alberta RCMP Federal Policing charge husband and wife in multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme

Calgary – Following a referral from the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), the Alberta RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team (IMET) investigated fraud allegations against a husband and wife operating several companies identified as Vesta Capcorp Inc. and Vesta Equity Partners in Calgary. What was discovered to be a Ponzi scheme resulted in the loss of millions of dollars for various investors between Feb. 2014 and Sept. 2016.

Following an extensive investigation, Brian Kitts, 65, and Shannon Kitts, 55, of Summerland, British Columbia have each been charged with the following:

  • Fraud over $5,000 contrary to Section 380(1)(a) of the Criminal Code;
  • Theft over $5,000 contrary to Section 334 of the Criminal Code; and
  • Laundering the Proceeds of Crime contrary to Section 462.31 of the Criminal Code.

Brian and Shannon Kitts are scheduled to appear in Calgary Provincial Court on Apr. 12, 2021.

The Alberta RCMP was able to successfully carry out this investigation in collaboration with the Forensic Accounting Management Group, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada, Public Prosecution Service of Canada and Specialized Prosecutions of the Province of Alberta, the ASC, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Unfortunately, the victims sustained substantial losses as a result of their investment within the Ponzi scheme they believed to be legitimate. The RCMP IMET urges investors to remain vigilant with their investment by performing due diligence.”

– Inspector Charlene O’Neill, Officer in Charge of the Alberta RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team.

The IMET is a specialized unit under the RCMP Federal Policing program that detects, investigates, and deters market fraud. The IMET unit works closely with the ASC to protect investors and further enhance confidence in the Canada’s capital markets.

With March being Fraud Prevention Month, Albertans are reminded to remain aware of potential scams, conduct their due diligence with investments, and report suspected criminal acts to law enforcement. If you have information with respects to a market-related fraud, you are asked to contact IMET at [email protected].

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Calgary mayoralty candidate, pastor both released after alleged COVID-19 violations

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CALGARY — A Calgary mayoralty candidate and a pastor who were both arrested for allegedly violating COVID-19 laws over the weekend were released from custody Monday pending future court appearances.

Calgary police allege Kevin J. Johnston, who is running in this fall’s municipal election and has been a vocal supporter of anti-lockdown protests, was in violation of a court order when he attended illegal gatherings Saturday. 

An injunction obtained by Alberta Health Services on May 6 mandates that event organizers comply with public health restrictions, including masking, physical distancing and attendance limits. 

The Court of Queen’s Bench also imposed a restraining order on Johnston last week. It required that he stay at least 100 metres away from health officers and not publish any threats or hate speech directed at them.

Johnston’s lawyer asked the court if his client’s interim release would preclude him from continuing to campaign for mayor. He was assured it would not.

“From AHS’ interests, as long as there is compliance with the two orders enjoining conduct, it doesn’t matter to us what Mr. Johnston does or doesn’t do,” said Mark Jackson, who was representing Alberta Health Services, the agency that delivers healthcare in Alberta.

Johnston has appeared regularly online, promoting far-right ideology, and AHS has said he has been aggressive and threatening towards two particular health workers as well as to its general workforce. 

He expressed concern from the prisoner’s docket Monday about being required to wear a mask.

“I simply cannot wear a mask. I’m already feeling the anxiety of this right now and I’m sweating. I’m bothered by having to have this on. I could not possibly wear a mask for that entire amount of time,” he told the court.

Johnston has been ordered to return to court June 16 to deal with contempt charges for violating the directive.

About 20 people, meanwhile, gathered outside the Calgary court in support of Pastor Tim Stephens, who was arrested Sunday for organizing a church service at Fairview Baptist Church. Police allege the service did not comply with public health orders. 

Holding signs that said “Free Pastor Tim” the supporters prayed and sang hymns prior to the court appearance.

Police said they received repeated calls from concerned citizens about services at Fairview Baptist Church in recent weeks, and that Stephens was proactively served a copy of the May 6 order last weekend. 

But his lawyer said the order has been modified by a judge, which narrows its scope, and Stephens was not in violation.

“The effect of that amendment to our understanding was essentially that the May 6 order would only be applicable to the respondents and people who were under their direction. That would not include Mr. Stephens,” said Leighton Grey.

The contempt matter will also be heard June 16.

Edmonton Justice Adam Germain said he has been directed to deal with all matters related to violations of the COVID-19 court orders.

“The reality may be there are going to be other arrests in the Calgary area and elsewhere and that I may see the same personnel appearing in front of me,” Germain said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Alberta and Manitoba intensive care units feeling strain of COVID-19 cases

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Health officials in Alberta and Manitoba warned Monday that they were reaching new peaks for intensive care admissions, even as more stable case counts and expanded vaccine rollouts buoyed hopes in several other provinces.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province’s intensive care units were currently treating more than 240 patients, surpassing all previous records. Of those patients, 186 have tested positive for COVID-19, he said. 

“Many of these are people who are sedated because they’re on respirators, unable to breathe on their own and who cannot have any human contact except through layers of (personal protective equipment),” he told a news conference. 

He said many of the places with highest hospitalization rates were rural areas, proving that COVID-19 isn’t just a “big-city problem.” 

Kenney said that while the province’s new COVID-19 case numbers have stabilized, he expects hospitalizations to continue to rise for the next week or so as more ill Albertans enter the system.

Despite the dire warnings, Kenney said he still hoped to ease public health restrictions soon, once vaccination rates climb further and hospitalizations drop. He urged Albertans to encourage their families and friends to get the shot, describing vaccines as “our way to get back to normal.”

It was a similar story in Manitoba, where health officials reported 120 patients in intensive care beds across the province, including more than 70 with COVID-19.

Lanette Siragusa, the province’s chief nursing officer, said it was likely the province would soon exceed the second-wave record of 129 patients set last December.

“We don’t know if we’re at the peak yet and how long that’s going to be, but as we continue to see 400, 500 cases, we know that’s going to have an impact on the acute-care system,” she told reporters.

She said the province has had to scale back non-urgent and elective surgeries in order to meet the needs of fighting COVID-19. However, Sirgusa said the province was not yet at the point of having to ration care and will look at “all other available options” before invoking a triage protocol. 

Several provinces were further expanding their vaccine rollouts on Monday as they continued the push to vaccinate their adult populations.

Ontario was originally scheduled to lower vaccine access to people as young as 30 but instead said Monday that all adults in the province can book an appointment starting Tuesday.

The Doug Ford government said it will stop sending half its doses to COVID-19 hot spots, where those 18 and up have been eligible to get vaccinated, and will instead distribute vaccines across the province on a per-capita basis.

While the move was criticized by members of the opposition and some mayors, who said the province should keep focusing on hard-hit areas, Health Minister Christine Elliott said there would be enough shots to meet demand.

She added that local health officials would be able to direct doses to where they were most needed, including hot spots.

“We have large quantities of vaccines coming in, so I feel confident that the local medical officers of health will know the areas within their regions that they need to continue to target,” she said.

Ontario’s vaccine expansion is possible because of an early delivery of 1.4 million doses to Canada from manufacturer Pfizer-BioNTech.

Quebec opened a drive-in vaccine clinic at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport on Monday and announced it was sending musicians to play at some vaccine centres as an incentive to get people to receive the shot.

Health officials in Quebec reported 551 new COVID-19 infections, which was the lowest daily number of new cases since September.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said Sunday that the province was just 85,000 appointments shy of meeting its goal of having 75 per cent of adults with at least one dose of vaccine or an appointment booked to get one.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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