Toronto police have charged two men in an alleged multimillion-dollar pyramid scheme that involved thousands of participants around the world.
Police say the scheme—known as “Banners Broker”—was operated out of a Toronto address between October 2010 and March 2013.
They say it offered participants the opportunity to double their money by investing in an advertising company that had access to a “globally renowned network.”
The scheme’s participants were led to believe their investments were being applied towards a program offering payment for the direction of web traffic via referral links.
Police say the program’s existence was entirely dependent on the fee-based entry of new members to the scheme, and that little or no real product or service was actually provided.
They say new investors were drawn into the scheme by false or misleading representations.
By the end of 2012, police say more than US$93 million was obtained from thousands of participants, of which about $45 million was paid back to participants in the scheme.
The remaining funds were funneled to a number of offshore accounts in Belize, St. Lucia, Cyprus and other locations.
Police say Christopher George Smith, 45, of Toronto, and Rajiv Dixit, 45, of Vancouver, have been arrested.
They have been charged with defrauding the public, possession of proceeds of crime and laundering proceeds of crime. They have also been charged under the Competition Act with operating a pyramid scheme and making false or misleading representations.