The alleged fraud of the week goes to Allen Stanford, the billionaire financier accused of masterminding an US$8 billion scam. But the wealthy Texan wasn’t the only accused fraudster in the news. On Tuesday, two days before FBI agents caught up with Stanford, U.S. Marshals arrested disgraced Victoria, B.C. money manager Ian Thow in Portland, Ore. Stanford had been missing for just a few days. Thow had been on the lam from the RCMP since last June. Here’s how the two stack up:
IN BETTER TIMES
Stanford: Chairman of Stanford International Bank, with offices in 136 countries, including one in Montreal. A prominent philanthropist and a major figure in the sport of cricket. Owned an estate in U.S. Virgin Islands and several planes. Estimated net worth: US$2.2 billion.
Thow: Was a senior executive at Berkshire Investment Group in Victoria. Owned a waterfront home, three jets, a helicopter and a yacht. Famous for his lavish lifestyle, and fondness for $1,000 cigars and $10,000 bottles of scotch.
Stanford: On Feb. 17 the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Stanford of orchestrating an US$8 billion fraud, by taking investors money and promising “improbable, if not impossible” returns. He, and two other executives from the firm, face civil fraud charges.
Thow: In 2005, he quit and filed for bankruptcy, claiming more than $40 million in debts and no assets. The British Columbia Securities Commission accused Thow of bilking investors out of $10 million.
THE ALLEGED VICTIMS
Stanford: Still too early for a full list, but the alleged scam was far reaching. Officials in Peru and Venezuela seized accounts at offices there. Regulators in Quebec are looking into Stanford’s Canadian operations. President Barack Obama and other lawmakers who received campaign contributions from Stanford have promised to give the money to charity.
Thow: Dozens of people in B.C. and Alberta. Most are seniors or on the cusp of retirement, and many lost their entire life savings. As one BCSC prosecutor put it: “Thow was … a predator.”
LIFE ON THE LAM
Stanford: Early reports indicated Stanford tried to charter a private plane from Houston, Tex., to Antigua but his credit card was rejected. Stanford turned himself in to the FBI in Virginia, at which point agents served him with the SEC lawsuit. Days on lam: 2.
Thow: Shortly after resigning his job in 2005, and with the RCMP investigating, Thow used his dual citizenship to cross into Washington. RCMP finally laid charges against him last June. He was spotted in Seattle last year. Last week, despite evading police, Thow, with the help of his lawyer, successfully appealed the BCSC’s $6 million fine against him. A B.C. Appeal Court reduced the fine to $250,000. By then, Thow had been living in Portland for several months in a high-end apartment. He’d told neighbours he was one of the first employees at Microsoft and had helped invent the Excel spreadsheet software. He was arrested shortly after leaving his building. Days on the lam: 249.
THE CARIBBEAN CONNECTION
Stanford: Played key role in turning Antigua into an off-shore tax haven, for which the government granted him a knighthood.
Thow: One of Thow’s alleged schemes was to invest his clients’ money in a Jamaican bank, but instead kept the cash for himself.