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Alberta regulator lays fraud charges against former pastor

A jury box.

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The Alberta Securities Commission has laid five charges in provincial court against a former Lethbridge pastor accused of defrauding clients in a series of investment schemes.

The ASC announced Tuesday that it has laid five charges against Ronald Aitkens involving the sale of securities through his company, Legacy Communities Inc., between 2005 and 2011. The ASC alleges that he committed fraud and sold securities without registration or issuing a prospectus.

The regulator did not detail its accusations in the case, but the charges come on the heels of a series of legal controversies involving Mr. Aitkens, including an investor class-action lawsuit filed in April that seeks to recover $500-million that investors say they put into a series of his real estate ventures.

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The investor lawsuit alleges that Mr. Aitkens and seven other people created the Harvest Group of Companies and raised $500-million from investors for 16 different ventures, but did not invest much of the money in the promised developments. Instead, the lawsuit alleges that Mr. Aitkens and the others named in the case kept much of the money for themselves.

The projects included an industrial park south of Edmonton called the Railside Industrial Park, as well as an office complex in downtown Calgary and residential developments in suburban Calgary.

The class-action suit has not been certified yet and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

In August, a judge overseeing the investor case froze Mr. Aitkens' assets, prohibiting him from selling property or accessing his bank accounts. Mr. Aitkens and his wife Lucille are also required to provide investors with a full accounting of their assets.

In September, Saskatchewan's securities regulator filed allegations against Mr. Aitkens, accusing him of fraud in the sale of securities to residents of Saskatchewan.

The ASC reached a settlement with Mr. Aitkens in 2009 in a case involving $46-million that he raised from 1,700 people. The ASC alleged that he participated in illegal distributions of securities and made misleading statements to investors.

Mr. Aitkens and others accused in the 2009 case agreed to pay penalties and costs totalling $190,000 and to file new offering memorandums before selling any further securities. Mr. Aitkens' company, Foundation Capital Corp., also agreed to pay $250,000 over three years to fund training courses for people operating in the exempt market, and agreed to pay a further $100,000 to fund internal sales agent training.

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About the Author
Real Estate Reporter

Janet McFarland is the real estate reporter for The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, with a focus on residential real estate trends. She joined Report on Business in 1995, and has specialized in reporting on corporate governance, executive compensation, pension policy, business law, securities regulation and enforcement of white-collar crime. More

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