Two men, including one from Langley, have entered guilty pleas to charges related to the operation of a pyramid scheme, say Toronto police.
The Toronto Police Service announced that Rajiv Dixit of Langley and Christopher George Smith of Toronto, both 45, were part of a pyramid scheme that allegedly took in more than $93 million from thousands of victims around the world.
The two were involved with Banners Broker, a company that purported to invest its clients’ money in online advertising business.
But according to the Toronto Police Service, the company was also a pyramid scheme.
Toronto Police launched an investigation in 2013, resulting in the arrest of people in December 2015.
Smith and Dixit both admitted to making US$50 million net. Much of the money was restrained in civil actions.
A large number of law enforcement and financial agencies worked on the project, including the RCMP, the Competition Bureau of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and even the US Postal Inspection Service. The groups were all part of the Toronto Strategic Partnership Against Cross Border Fraud.
“This matter first came to the attention of the Competition Bureau who informed the Partnership. The case was taken on as a project with full participation from all members,” said Detective Sergeant Ian Nichol of TPS Financial Crimes.
Nichol said this investigation was unique.
“It was almost a fraud within a pyramid scheme to begin with, in the sense that people who initially bought into it knew they were investing in a pyramid,” he said. “What they didn’t know was that that there were only certain people who were getting paid out. Eventually, the scheme evolved when they realized there was enforcement activity occurring and they began to make it appear as though they were a legitimate investment product. At that point, people who were buying into it thought they were buying into a syndicated banner ad scheme where they would get paid based on the number of people who got re-routed to different websites. But it was all a big façade and there was nothing real to it.”
Pyramid schemes, noted Nichol, are fairly common and warned that people should do further research before investing.
“The common thread in a pyramid scheme is that the sole source of revenue is simply bringing on other members to pay into the scheme, so those who joined before them can get paid,” he said. “The scheme eventually collapses and most participants will lose their entire investment.”
Nichol said the project was very demanding on resources during both the investigation and court processes.
“The Partnership paved the way to obtaining resources and support in a timely efficient manner, that would have otherwise been difficult to obtain,” he added.