Canadian authorities have arrested six people suspected of masterminding a Ponzi scheme that duped hundreds of investors out of at least $19 million. Police arrested France-Josée Dancause, 49, of Longueuil; Alain Péloquin, 48, of Sherbrooke; Benoît Sénécal, 57, of Sherbrooke; Sophie Jolicoeur, 44, of Mont-St-Hilaire; Isabelle Cantin, 36, of Sherbrooke; and Chantal Goulet, 44, of Longueuil. Each was charged with fraud. Police are also seeking a seventh suspect, Jean-Marc Lavallée.
The scheme appears to date back several years to several cease-and-desist orders issued by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), which acts as a regulatory body overseeing Quebec’s financial sector. According to AMF, Peloquin and his “de facto wife” Isabelle Cantin recruited investors, either directly or through the use of “team leaders,” with promises of extraordinary returns by telling them that he had a lucrative contact within the federal government that allowed him to purchase seized assets before they were put up for auction to the general public. These efforts appeared to be coordinated through Peloquin’s company, Evaluation Apex Inc., with investors told that the AMF had authorized the transactions and that the investments were “safe” and “guaranteed.” Investors were also warned that strict secrecy was required. In total, more than 200 investors invested nearly $20 million with Peloquin and his accomplices.
However, the AMF alleged that none of the investments touted by Peloquin were actually made. Rather, investor funds were diverted to the personal bank accounts of Peloquin and Cantin where they were used for the pair’s personal expenses. Additionally, investor funds were also used to pay principal and fictitious profits to existing investors – the classic hallmark of a Ponzi scheme.