A trio of B.C. men who conducted an alleged $5 million Ponzi scheme abused the trust of family and friends, a BC Securities Commission hearing panel heard May 30.
Richmond resident Cheryl Chou testified the scheme allegedly orchestrated by fellow Richmond resident Todd Norman John Bezzasso with help from Fiorino Corsi and Wei Kai (Kevin) Liao ruined her opportunity to buy a home after her life savings of $130,000 was invested in Bezzasso’s failing companies and never paid back.
The 33-year-old said given her friendship with Liao, her investment was predicated more on trust than the actual product the scheme seemed to be providing.
Another victim of the scheme, Calvin Wu, said Liao was his sister-in-law’s best friend and that he had known Liao for more than 15 years. He and his parents invested tens of thousands of dollars with Liao.
The hearing is ongoing and the panel is to determine whether the men violated the B.C. Securities Act by committing fraud.
Bezzasso was not at the hearing; a lawyer representing him had asked for an adjournment earlier in the week. His last known address is in Richmond but his current wheareabouts are unknown. Bezzasso is in his mid-30s and he grew up in Richmond.
Liao, a former insurance agent, who works as a financial advisor for Columbia Chrysler, did not respond to Glacier Media’s request for comment. Corsi’s last known address is Vancouver. He, too, went unrepresented Thursday.
BCSC investigators claim Bezzasso raised money fraudulently for his companies, Bezzaz and Nexus.
Key to the allegations is that the men knew the investors would never be paid back after the companies fell into financial troubles.
Between February 2015 and March 2016, “Bezzasso, Bezzaz and Nexus represented to investors that the companies and products in Bezzaz’s portfolio would generate monthly returns. The scheme included giving investors post-dated cheques for the principal and interest they were to receive. In fact, Bezzasso and the corporate respondents knew that Bezzaz would not generate enough returns to pay investors as promised,” claims the BCSC hearing notice.
The BCSC claims Bezzaz offered returns between 5% and 30%, for investment periods of one to six months, payable monthly.
“Bezzasso solicited investors personally, and paid commissions to Liao, Corsi and others to find investors. Bezzasso used bank accounts for Bezzaz and Nexus for investors’ money,” stated the notice.
Despite not being a registered securities dealer, Liao raised $1.6 million for Bezzasso by soliciting his insurance clients, including Chou. Liao’s license was suspended for two years by the Insurance Council of B.C. in April 2017. The council’s website indicates Liao remains unlicensed.
The hearing continues next week.
Allegations of fraud by the BCSC do not fall under the Criminal Code. The panel may issue bans on public market activity and fines should it determine fraud. Criminal charges would subsequently need to be considered by the RCMP.