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)

Dave Jones’ Wealthstreet Dragon Fund Now Worthless

Since a few people email me every month asking if I know anything about the status of the Dragon Fund, I thought it would be helpful if I published this letter I received from Olympia Trust Company last month. It officially declares that the Dragon Fund is defunct and worthless. If you need the documents required to remove this investment from your account, please contact Olympia Trust Company at 1-877-565-0001.


Making it Easy for Your Potential Customer to Use Your Service

This is the first post in a while that deals with the topic of business…this is a subject I want to start to explore more on this blog. I don’t feel blessed with much spare time at the moment, but it’s important for me to continue to write somewhere, lest I become too rusty. So here goes…

I was in Mexico recently on vacation, and on the way through the airport in Puerto Vallarta I was reminded again what a clever design the airport has for encouraging people to spend their last few pesos. You literally have to walk through several stores on your way to your gate. Not near them, but through them. It’s less obnoxious than it sounds, and it’s effective. The point is, by the time you get to your gate, you’ve probably spent your last bit of cash. There’s also the thought that most travelers have of not wanting to return home with useless paper currency they can’t spend unless they come back.

After passing through these stores, you finally make it to your gate. In this area there’s a small, two-chair massage station business that offers travelers 15 minute back/neck massages. If you’re sitting at the gate and you’ve got the time, why not, right? That was my thinking, and having a pre sit-on-my-butt-for-five-hours-massage seemed like a great idea. I was practically relaxing already as I walked up to the two massage chairs. The women greeted me with a smile, I smiled back, and before I could say anything my eyes caught a fairly large sign that read:


I was quite taken aback by this. Cash only? Really? People are getting ready to board their plane, have walked a gauntlet of stores designed to coax the last pesos out of their wallet, and this business is expecting people to pay for their service in cash? I felt a rush of disappointment come over me, and to my dismay I practically scowled at the woman as I said “Do you think most people have cash on them as they’re about to get on the plane?”. I threw up my hands and walked away, no doubt leaving her somewhat stunned. Anyone who knows me understands that hiding my feelings is something I’m rather poor at.

In that moment, I was a customer who was excitedly looking forward to paying for a service and in an instant I became someone who was turned away because of a poor decision the owner made. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the woman working, but she lost a paying customer and the tip she would have pocketed.

The lesson here? Meet your customers where they’re at in every way possible. If you set up your business in a location where people are unlikely to have cash, take credit cards. Be flexible. Don’t let payment terms be the thing that gets in the way of you making a sale. You’ve done your work, you’ve paid for a prime location, you’ve trained your staff, you’re ready to make some profit. Why destroy all that by being a cash-only business in a place where people are unlikely to have cash?

On the flip side, there was a great business that snagged $25 from me easily: it was a small, tastefully designed kiosk with a large flat-panel TV, and small but powerful Bose speakers playing music from a violin/piano duet called Arcano. They seem to do strictly covers, mostly pop/rock (like this), and since I’m always looking for good music to serve as a back-drop to periods of focus, I handed over my Visa and walked away with two CDs in less than two minutes. That’s how you run a business!

The Groupon Experience: Three Business Owners Share

I’ve long held that Groupon, or any online coupon offering like it, is like juggling a flaming knife for a business owner: only the truly skilled will survived. full article here.

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.

Dragon Fund Update, July 25th, 2011

I received this via email today. If you’re an investor with money in the Dragon Fund, here’s what’s going on (which is to say, still not much):

July 25, 2011

Dragon Fund Update

Recently Dragon Fund and the trustees of the fund have been served with an Amended Statement of Claim which has included MacLeod Dixon. This amendment has created a conflict of interest between our legal counsel (MacLeod Dixon), ourselves and the fund.  MacLeod Dixon is no longer able to represent the fund as this is a conflict of interest.

New legal representation for Mike Arnold and Tina Zowtuk has recommend we resign as trustees . Due to the Amended Statement of Claim the new legal counsel can represent us personally but not the fund.

We are currently asking for individuals to put their name forward to take on the trustee role of the Dragon Fund LP.  If we are unable to replace the trustees internally the fund will have to appoint an external trustee.

If you are interested in becoming a trustee please forward your contact information.


Mike Arnold
Tina Zowtuk

The Groupon/Coupon Bubble Will Burst Soon

I posted the above status update earlier today, and when asked to explain myself on Facebook, I wrote up a rather lengthy explanation that seemed worth of turning into a blog post…so here it is (slightly edited for clarity).

I’ve talked to a few small businesses now that have used these new coupon services, and in every case so far, they’ve been financially maimed by them. Some due to their own ignorance or poor financial understanding, some by the salespeople at the deal companies.

A carpet cleaning company used Kijiji and the salespeople wouldn’t allow him to put a limit on the number of coupons sold – because they wanted to gain as much revenue as possible from it of course. They charge 50%, like everyone seems to, and still tacked on another 2.5% in credit card processing fees. Talk about adding insult to injury. Thankfully for him, only 150 people ordered the carpet cleaning – he was smart enough to spread out the appointments, only booking the Kijiji deals three times a week. That makes it frustrating for customers like me to get the service in a timely fashion – it took two months for me to get my booking in – but given that he’s working at 77.5% off his normal price, he’s only breaking even on supplies and travel costs…so his labour is free. Hard to feed a family on that!

In my case he made some money – I had him do two sets of stairs, which weren’t a part of the deal – but he said nearly every time people only want what the coupon covers. So as soon as he hits 500 square feet of carpet cleaned, he stopped.

Most businesses hope for repeat customers, but the type of customers that use deals like these are usually the kind who aren’t willing to pay for a service at full price in the first place. So you end up with people using your service at no profit to you, and you don’t get many new customers out of the deal. There are some exceptions: the guy that did our carpets did such an amazing job I’ll absolutely use him again, paying full price and b happy about it. I think that’s rare though.

Some deals can scale, no matter how many coupons are sold. I just bought a $10 for $20 at Old Navy for example. Old Navy could sell 10,000 of them and their stores could handle the extra traffic just fine. But the small carpet cleaning business, if he suddenly has 500% more clients than before, it soaks up all his excess capacity (good) but also uses up all his future capacity for the next six months (bad), at no profit. I heard of a cleaning company that went bankrupt because they sold too many coupons – again, because the company wouldn’t let them restrict the number of coupons sold – and it was easier to go bankrupt than to absorb the losses of the poor business decision of using the coupon service.

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.