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$250K investment mystery: Accountant admits in recorded call he doesn’t know where money is

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The daughter of a Kingston, Ont., senior who lost $250,000 after his trusted accountant encouraged him to invest in a “questionable” financial scheme says police did little to investigate when the suspected fraud was reported, despite all kinds of suspicious documents and the loss of the bulk of her father’s retirement savings.

“I approached the [Kingston] police with this evidence and said, ‘There’s something very wrong here,”‘ Diane McEwen-Loveys told Go Public. “Their response was that they couldn’t do anything.”

McEwen-Loveys with her father, Mendal McEwen, who is now suffering from dementia. (Photo submitted by Diane McEwen-Loveys)

A former senior RCMP investigator who now consults on white-collar crimes says McEwen-Loveys​’ experience isn’t unusual, adding police often have little financial crime expertise and few resources for such investigations.

“There is a limited pool of investigators with financial crimes experience,” says Greg Draper. 

Odd document

McEwen-Loveys says the financial nightmare began in 2016 when her father, Mendal McEwen, had to be placed in long-term care due to dementia. 

While going through his papers, she discovered a strange-looking “participation agreement” that her father had signed in 2008.

“Standard wording that’s required for that type of documentation was missing,” says McEwen-Loveys, who has a financial background. 

“It quickly became clear to me that something was very wrong.” 

Her father’s long-time accountant, Douglas Raymond of Kingston, had arranged an agreement with a financial company called New Dawn International — no mention of it can be found online. The document does not explain what type of company New Dawn is, or how McEwan’s money would be used.  

The agreement says New Dawn operates in “the Principality of Hutt River,” a small region in western Australia that claims to be an independent, sovereign state.

“What’s going through my mind is, ‘This can’t be a hoax,'” says McEwen-Loveys. “There’s gotta be some reality to this.”

She did a little digging and discovered that the Principality of Hutt River has its own self-declared prince, its own currency, its own stamps and passport — but none of that is recognized by any government.

McEwen invested $250,000 in 2008 and was promised a rate of return of 24 per cent a year, starting 60 days from the date of deposit.

Mendal McEwan committed $250,000 in this agreement brokered by his trusted accountant. (Submitted by Diane McEwen-Loveys)

McEwen-Loveys couldn’t find any paperwork on the agreement — no statements, no prospectus — so she’s not sure what the deal was all about, or what happened after her father handed over a large chunk of his retirement savings. 

She did find a record for a wire transfer for $250,000 her father made the same day he signed the agreement, moving money from his registered retirement fund, which resulted in a hefty tax bill.

But it’s not clear who the money was wired to, or where. Banks aren’t required to keep records for longer than seven years.

McEwen-Loveys also discovered two emails from her father to Raymond, in which he asks for some of the money supposedly resulting from his investment. 

In 2010, Raymond told his client in an email that “the cash flow is not positive at this point.” In a second email a year later, Raymond wrote: “We are still months away from turning this into a positive situation that can start paying out.”  

With suspicions growing, McEwen-Loveys contacted various securities regulators and confirmed that the investment was not registered in Ontario.

She also called the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario and learned that Raymond was no longer a registered accountant, and had not been registered when her father made the large withdrawal from his retirement savings.

She decided to call Raymond and record the call.

During the conversation, Raymond said he couldn’t discuss the investment with McEwen-Loveys because “it’s complex” and “complicated.” 

Listen to call with the accountant

Listen to accountant admit he doesn’t know the whereabouts of his client’s large investment. 4:21

He told her he couldn’t say where the money is now, because information about the investment “is not available.”

He cut the conversation short, saying, “I’m not going to continue the discussion at this point.”

Go Public wanted to speak further with Raymond, but he did not return calls or emails.

Turns to police

Unable to track down the $250,000, McEwen-Loveys turned to Kingston police. 

The case was reviewed by fraud investigators, who determined they couldn’t proceed with a criminal investigation.

In an email to McEwen-Loveys, a constable wrote that the investment scheme was “questionable to say the least,” but because McEwen’s father had dementia he could not be considered “a viable witness/victim.”

Greg Draper, a former RCMP fraud investigator turned forensic accountant, specializes in white-collar crime and says police often don’t have the mandate or resources to investigate complex fraud cases. (CBC)

McEwen-Loveys says investigators told her they didn’t listen to the recording of her call with Raymond, because they couldn’t open the audio file. 

“It’s very frustrating,” she says. “The only body that has any authority would be the police. And they were unwilling to take up the case.”

After Go Public contacted Kingston police, they said they were reviewing a fraud report, but could not comment due to confidentiality concerns.

Draper says one of the challenges of investigating possible financial crime is the time required.

“They are document intensive and often it takes several steps — multiple search warrants or interviews, evidence gathering sessions — to get the materials you need,” he says. 

“They can take months and years to properly collect everything under the standards that are needed for criminal prosecution.”

Tips for avoiding financial fraud

  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. High rates of return are a red flag.
  • Ask questions: Who is selling the product? Does it make sense?
  • Check registration: People selling many financial products need to be registered.
  • Be transparent: Talk to your family before making a sizeable investment.
  • Never wire money to a stranger.

Help for investors

While looking online for help, McEwen-Loveys came across the Investor Protection Clinic  at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School. 

Opened last fall, the clinic gives free legal advice to people who believe their investments have been mishandled.

Founder Poonam Puri, an expert in corporate and securities law, says her clinic hears from many people like McEwen-Loveys who were turned away by police. 

“Municipal police are really focused on traditional crimes involving physical harm and the things that you would think of when you think of police and crime,” says Puri. “I think the police are less well-equipped to deal with economic crimes.”

Law professor Poonam Puri says the best advice for the elderly to avoid financial fraud is for parents and their adult children to have regular conversations about money matters. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Even when a suspected victim has dementia — as is the case with Mendal McEwen — a case can still be pursued.

“It’s important to hear from the person who’s been harmed if that’s possible,” she says, “but if there’s documentary evidence that tells a story of wrongdoing and harm, that’s equally important and perhaps even more powerful.” 

McEwen-Loveys is hoping a team of students at York University’s Investor Protection Clinic — Max Ledger, Eric Cheng and Paniz Ghazanfari — can build a criminal case to get her father’s money back. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

McEwen-Loveys has teamed up with three law students at the clinic, including Max Ledger.

“Our goal is to produce a narrative that is compelling,” says Ledger, “and will eventually convince a police officer to look at the case, look at the timeline, look at the evidence and say, ‘This is something I think we should pursue.'”​​​

McEwen-Loveys says it’s not about the money anymore.

“I see my father being victimized, and I don’t want that happening to anyone,” she says. “At this point, it’s really about ensuring this doesn’t happen to others.”

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Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories you want to make public.

Submit your story ideas at Go Public.

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The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021

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Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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