Concrete Equities’ Varun “Vinny” Aurora Pleads Guilty to Fraud

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog about the debacle that was Concrete Equities, but the wheels of justice move slowly – when they move at all – in the realm of white-collar crime. Finally though, some good news:

“While one of his victims sobbed in the back of a Calgary courtroom, a city man pleaded guilty Friday for his role in bilking $23 million from hundreds of investors. Varun (Vinny) Aurora pleaded guilty in provincial court to fraud over $5,000 in a scheme centring on Mexican real estate investments. His own father lost the largest amount — $901,000 — in the fraud run by Concrete Equities Inc. that roped in 1,200 investors, about 20 of whom showed up in court. The play, which began in 2007, sold investor units in a Mexican development known as the El Golfo project, whose purchase price Concrete Equities greatly inflated for investors.”
Calgary Herald Article

What kind of a person would defraud his own father out of $901,000? I’ll leave that for you to decide. While I’m glad to see him charged and his guilty plea, I am stunned at the “justice” being served here: according to this CBC article, he will spend no time in jail. Incredible – just incredible. 😡 $23 million dollars was stolen from 1200 people – much of it retirement savings – and he doesn’t go to jail. His punishment?

Continue reading Concrete Equities’ Varun “Vinny” Aurora Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Concrete Equities and Wealthstreet Alberta Securities Commission Documents

I’ve had these documents for several years and had been meaning to put them up for public access – all text below is taken verbatim from the documents in question.

Alberta Securities Commission: Notice of Hearing (Oct 2010) [Download PDF]
To: Wealthstreet Inc, Colin Davis Jones (aka David Colin Jones, aka Dave Jones), Rachael Poffenroth
Allegations & Summary of Breaches:

  1. “Staff (Staff) of the Alberta Securities Commission (Commission) alleges that Wealthstreet Inc. (Wealthstreet), Colin David Jones also known as David Colin Jones (Jones) and Rachael Poffenroth (Poffenroth) (collectively, the Respondents) engaged in illegal trading and distributions of securities in Alberta to Alberta investors.”
  2. “Staff also alleges that Jones acted as an advisor in Alberta without being registered as an advisor, made prohibited and misleading or untrue representations to Alberta investors and engaged in unfair practices in transactions with Alberta investors.”

Alberta Securities Commission: Amended Notice of Hearing (Oct 2010) [Download PDF]
To: VARUN VINNY AURORA, DAVID HUMENIUK, DAVID JONES, VINCENZO DE PALMA
Allegations & Summary of Breaches:

  1. “Staff of the Commission (Staff) allege that Varun Vinny Aurora (Aurora), David Humeniuk (Humeniuk), David Jones (Jones) and Vincenzo De Palma (De Palma) breached the Act by acting as dealers without being registered in accordance with Alberta securities laws, and without an applicable exemption to the registration requirement, or by authorizing, permitting or acquiescing in such conduct by one or more corporate entities of which they were a director or officer.”
  2. “Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk and Jones breached the Act by making, or by authorizing, permitting or acquiescing in the making of, statements each knew, or ought reasonably to have known, were misleading or untrue in a material respect, or that did not state a fact that was required to be stated or that was necessary to make the statement not misleading, and that would reasonably have been expected to have a significant effect on the market price or value of the security in question.”
  3. “Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk, Jones and De Palma each breached the Act by trading in securities on his own account, or authorized, permitted or acquiesced in the trade of securities on one or more companies’ own account, in circumstances where such
    trades were distributions, without having filed a prospectus or preliminary prospectus for which a receipt had been issued by the Executive Director of the Commission (the Executive Director), and for which no valid exemption applied.”
  4. “Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk, Jones and De Palma each acted contrary to the public interest.”

Alberta Securities Commission: Notice of Decision (Dec 2011) [Download PDF]
To: Wealthstreet Inc, Colin Davis Jones (aka David Colin Jones, aka Dave Jones), Rachael Poffenroth
Recognition of Seriousness:

  1. “Jones, in our view, still does not recognize the seriousness of his misconduct. Communications to investors that are in evidence and his statements before us (on the few occasions that we saw or heard from him) demonstrate Jones’s persistence in contending that any issues with the Promissory Notes and the other securities sold through Wealthstreet were caused by global economic conditions and not his actions. He continues to accept no blame or responsibility for his illegal actions. When cross-examining investor witness KC, he implied that she was in a more balanced position with her current investments (through Wealthstreet) than she had been before meeting Jones. In fact, KC had gone from having retirement savings of over $200 000 and real estate equity of several hundred thousand dollars to apparently losing all of her savings and owing $540 000 on home equity lines of credit. In addition to not accepting responsibility for the financial harm he caused his clients, Jones seems unwilling or unable to appreciate the fact that his actions contravened Alberta securities laws and were contrary to the public interest.”
  2. “We believe that Poffenroth recognizes the seriousness of her misconduct and sincerely regrets both her involvement in Wealthstreet and the harm caused to Wealthstreet investors. She candidly admitted that she was not qualified to act as Wealthstreet’s president. She also testified during the Merits Hearing that she experienced “shock and hurt” at learning some of what Jones had done and how the investors had been affected. She appeared to accept the majority of the sanctions suggested by Staff as appropriate and expressed her intention not to be involved with public companies in the future. However, the evidence also indicates that Poffenroth had concerns about being under-qualified and being upset over some of Jones’s activities while still employed at Wealthstreet. Despite her concerns and reservations, Poffenroth continued for a time to act as Wealthstreet’s president and collect her generous remuneration. She later filed a claim with the Trustee for money owing to her from her wrongful dismissal claim. At no time did she report Jones or Wealthstreet to any regulators. We conclude that while some of her remorse and recognition of seriousness is genuine, some of that contrition stems from her desire to minimize the sanctions she might receive.”

Criminal Charges Laid in Concrete Equities Investment Scheme

I’ve been waiting for this moment to arrive for a very long time – Canada’s criminal justice system is finally going after some of the individuals involved in stealing millions of dollars from investors:

“Mounties have charged two men in fraud scheme that allegedly bilked Canadian investors out of $23 million…Mounties have charged David Nelson Humeniuk and Varun Aurora with three counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of theft over $5,000. Humeniuk alone is also charged with one count of theft and money laundering for taking $1 million of investors’ money for his personal use. The St. Albert man was arrested and released on a promise to appear in a Calgary court on Feb. 27. A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for the arrest of Aurora, who also goes by the name “Vinny.””

Here’s the full story over on the Calgary Sun, and a short news clip:

Varun "Vinny" Aurora Wanted by Police

I wonder if any of the other ex-Concrete Equities people will be next?

 

Concrete Equities PDF Documents

Clearing out some old Evernote folders, I wanted to publish these Concrete Equities-related documents for search engines to index.

SEARCHABLE-PDF-Dave Humeniuk Statement of Defence Aug 28

PDF-Dave Humeniuk Statement of Defence Aug 28

SEARCHABLE-PDF-Aug 21 Statement of Claim and Affidavit

PDF-Aug 21 Statement of Claim and Affidavit

Letter to El Golfo Investor, dated November 2, 2010

E & Y Feb 16, 2011 Letter to Mexico Investors

Basi Affidavit v5 (Filed May 26, 2010)

ASC Rules David Jones and Wealthstreet Breached Alberta Securities Laws

“An Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) panel has found that David Jones, sole director and shareholder of Wealthstreet Inc., breached Alberta securities laws by acting as an advisor without being registered and engaging in an unfair practice by unreasonably pressuring at least one investor to purchase securities through Wealthstreet.   The panel also ruled that Jones, Wealthstreet and former Wealthstreet president Rachael Poffenroth illegally traded in and distributed securities of Wealthstreet, and that all the conduct was contrary to the public interest.”Alberta Securities Commission Web site

“A Calgary financial advisor well-known for his market reports on local radio and TV stations provided “disastrous” and “unconscionable” advice to some investing with him, the Alberta Securities Commission ruled Monday, adding David Jones used “scare tactics and falsehoods” with at least one client.”The Calgary Herald

Not much to say is there? Dave Jones worked very hard to sell a lot of financial products to a lot of different people, and now he’s seeing the impact of his actions. Let’s not forget former Wealthstreet President Rachel Poffenroth – she was right there alongside Dave Jones. Now that the trial is done, sanctions will be determined at a later date.

Avenue Commercial Castleridge LP Investment Corp. Annual General Meeting Notes

Today I attended the Avenue Commercial Castleridge LP Investment Corp. Annual General Meeting and finally learned about the status of our troubled Concrete Equities investment. There’s some bad news, and some good news. Overall though, it was net-positive: the bottom line is that there’s some debt to deal with (the vultures want their pound of flesh), but we have full ownership of our property, are cash-flow positive, and things are looking up in terms of us eventually getting back on track for the cash disbursements we all signed up for. I took as many notes as I could; here they are in point form:

  • Presented by Steven Butt, General Partner, Avenue Commercial
  • Very positive on this particular building
  • They were given millions of pages of documents by Ernst & Young; hard drives. Five months of work to process, several hundreds of thousands of pages scanned
  • They’re not going to go back and look at all the documents – they’re moving forward
  • We now have financial statements (hooray!)
  • T-5013 tax forms are available
  • Castleridge: 8.25 acres of property, 74,000 square feet of leasable space
  • Building constructed in 19991 and in good condition, but the overall property needs some work. Suffers from a few years of neglect
  • Nov 2007 we paid 24.2 million for the Castleridge location. Concrete took $3.2 million as their fee.
  • The June 2008 appraisal was $18.5 million; the June 2010 appraisal $18.2 million
  • Loss in value of $5.7 million. Why? Large promotion fee, receivership costs, spike in retail vacancy, 30% vacancy
  • Exit of CCAA after 1.5 years in July 21st, 2010

Continue reading Avenue Commercial Castleridge LP Investment Corp. Annual General Meeting Notes

Avenue Commercial Schedules Annual General Meeting

If you’re an investor in any of the five ill-fated Concrete Equities properties in Calgary, now being run by Avenue Commercial, there’s an important meeting coming up on April 29th. It’s being held at the Highland Park Community Association Hall (3716 – 2nd Street NW). The schedule is as follows:

  • MEG LP Investment Corp: 9:00am  to   9:45am
  • Millrise Deer Valley LP Investment Corp: 10:30am to  11:15am
  • Castleridge LP Investment Corp: 12:00pm to  12:45pm
  • Lavalin LP Investment Corp: 2:00pm  to  2:45pm
  • CE Place Investment Corp: 3:30pm  to  4:15pm

You’re required to bring photo ID with you for registration – which starts 30 minutes prior to each meeting, and closes 10 minutes after the meeting starts – and only registered owners will be permitted into the building. I’ve emailed them to ask if husband/wife combos are permitted; the investment is in my wife’s name, but I’m the one who handles the investments in our family – so far no response from them, but I’d be surprised if they said not to this. No audio or video recording devices are permitted.

The email I received with this information alludes to some good news, so I’m tentatively hopeful that the investment we have in Castleridge will get back on track and earning us money like it was always supposed to.

Avenue Commercial Communicates About Concrete Equities

Since I still get emails every week or two asking for information about what happened to the Concrete Equities investments, I thought I’d share this piece of communication that came out in October of 2010. In a nutshell, Avenue Commercial has taken over as property managers for the five Calgary properties (Millrise Deer Valley, Castleridge, MEG Place, CEP, Lavalin). If you have an investment in something other than those five properties, you should contact Ernst & Young’s Calgary office at 403-290-4100 to inquire about the status of your investment.

The PDF below has some of the background information, but as of mid-February, no specifics have been given out about where each property is at in terms of financials and revenue. I’m not aware of any payments having been sent out to any investors yet; when I inquired earlier this month about the status of things, I was told there would be an AGM in the first week of March. No date, no location as of yet.

“To Our Valued Investors; For those of you I have yet to meet, I would like to introduce myself.  I am Steven Butt, the President and Founder of Avenue Commercial and feel honored to be the person for whom nearly 100% of you voted in favor for as the new General Partner. Over the past 18 months, I have had the pleasure of meeting, speaking and hearing the concerns of many investors as we together have fought through many significant challenges to salvage your valued investments. Now, after many emotional town hall meetings, court sessions, receivers meetings and countless hours of work on the part of our in house team, our legal team and your steering committee, we have exited many of the court proceedings and the future of your investment at last appears much brighter. As most of you know, we suffered through extensive damage from a cash flow perspective as the court process initiated by Concrete Equities cost the Limited Partners in excess of 3 million dollars and we are coming out of restructuring with numerous smaller creditors and over 3 million dollars in debt  payable to the Strategic group.  These are not paltry obligations and it will take some time to retire our trailing debts but with hard work and a structured payment plan, we can and will shed these obligations over time.”

Avenue Commercial Investors Update Oct 2010

Avenue Commercial’s contact information: 403-802-6766 / www.avenuecommercial.com

Alberta Securities Commission Notice of Hearing for Dave Jones, Rachael Poffenroth, Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Vincenzo De Palma

I haven’t published anything lately about Concrete Equities or Wealthstreet, but things are continuing to evolve with those companies and the people who ran them. Late last year, a notice of hearing (or possibly two?) was held for Dave Jones (A.K.A. Colin David Jones), Rachael Poffenroth, Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David (Dave) Humeniuk, and Vincenzo De Palma. When we were clients of Wealthstreet, Ms. Poffenroth was the president of the company.

To any lawyer reading this: no statement made in this post can be considered libel; I am simply re-publishing publicly available information. I make no allegations myself, and all data provided is from public sources.

The two PDF documents below have the details, but allow me to quote two sections from the second PDF:

Allegations: Summary of Breaches (Page 3)

“1. Staff of the Commission (Staff) allege that Varun Vinny Aurora (Aurora), David Humeniuk (Humeniuk), David Jones (Jones) and Vincenzo De Palma (De Palma) breached the Act by acting as dealers without being registered in accordance with Alberta securities laws, and without an applicable exemption to the registration requirement, or by authorizing, permitting or acquiescing in such conduct by one or more corporate entities of which they were a director or officer.

2. Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk and Jones breached the Act by making, or by authorizing, permitting or acquiescing in the making of, statements each knew, or ought reasonably to have known, were misleading or untrue in a material respect, or that did not state a fact that was required to be stated or that was necessary to make the statement not misleading, and that would reasonably have been expected to have a significant effect on the market price or value of the security in question.

3. Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk, Jones and De Palma each breached the Act by trading in securities on his own account, or authorized, permitted or acquiesced in the trade of securities on one or more companies’ own account, in circumstances where such trades were distributions, without having filed a prospectus or preliminary prospectus for which a receipt had been issued by the Executive Director of the Commission (the Executive Director), and for which no valid exemption applied.

4. Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk, Jones and De Palma each acted contrary to the public interest.”

The Impact of the Respondents’ Actions (Page 10)

“76. The Offending Partnerships and CE Fund collectively raised approximately $110,000,000, with $96,735,000 raised using the impugned Offering Memoranda referred to above. In total the Concrete Group raised over $118,000,000 through the issuance of securities to 3,723 investors.

77. On May 26, 2009 Partnerships 1 through 5 sought and obtained protection from their creditors through the filing of a Notice of Intention to Make a Proposal under section 50.4(1) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. B-3 as amended. On June 9, 2009 Ernst & Young Inc. was appointed as Interim Receiver of Partnerships 1-5.

78. On July 29, 2009 Concrete, the Offending Partnerships and each of their general partners were made subject to a Receivership Order (the Receivership Order). Ernst & Young Inc. was appointed Receiver for each entity.

79. Prior to the Receivership Order, the shareholders of the Concrete Group received distributions of slightly under $5,000,000. This represents a payment of only roughly 4% of their investment principal.

80. In contrast, prior to the Receivership Order, Concrete was paid over $15,000,000 in commissions as a result of the various Concrete Agreements. However, under the terms of those Concrete Agreements, Concrete was only entitled to commission payments of $10,107,750. Concrete was overpaid approximately $4.9 million.

81. In addition to the commission payments to Concrete, Aurora, De Palma, Humeniuk and Jones were also collectively paid over $8.0 million as directors of the various Concrete Group entities.

82. In its Third Report of the Receiver, dated December 2, 2009, Ernst & Young Inc, as Receiver, concluded that “based on the information presented in this report it is clear that the directors of Concrete mismanaged the affairs on Concrete in material respects.”

83. It is uncertain what recovery, if any, will be made by the 3,723 investors in the Concrete Group of their collective $118,000,000 investment, and significant further recovery of their investments is questionable.”

The two PDFs are below and can be downloaded, printed, or shared. Continue reading Alberta Securities Commission Notice of Hearing for Dave Jones, Rachael Poffenroth, Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Vincenzo De Palma

Alberta Securities Commission Notice of Hearing for Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Dave Jones

Wondering what happened to Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Dave Jones? The Alberta Securities Commission has something to say. I quote:

“The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) has issued a Notice of Hearing alleging Calgary residents Varun Vinny Aurora, David Humeniuk and David Jones breached Alberta securities laws by acting as dealers without being properly registered, making serious omissions and misrepresentations to investors and distributing various Concrete Equities Group entities’ securities using offering documents not in compliance with Alberta securities laws.

In the Notice of Hearing, ASC staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk and Jones, as directors and officers of Concrete Equities and multiple related companies and limited partnerships, made several serious omissions and misrepresentations by failing to fully disclose material, non-arms length contracts connected to the securities being sold and failing to disclose Humeniuk’s lifetime withdrawal from the Real Estate Council of Alberta to investors.”

The appeatence to set a date for the hearing will be held on October 13th, 2010, at 1 p.m. in the ASC Hearing Room on the 6th Floor, 300 – 5th Avenue S.W., Calgary, Alberta. I’m pondering going myself – I wonder if it’s open to the public? The full notice of hearing document can be found on the ASC Web site, but I’ve also mirrored a copy of it here. Continue reading Alberta Securities Commission Notice of Hearing for Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Dave Jones