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Barrie, Ont. man at centre of 'landmark' Ponzi scheme in court for sentencing hearing

A Barrie, Ont. man who pleaded guilty in connection with a Ponzi scheme investigation was in court Monday for a sentencing hearing.

Charles Debono looked tired as he entered the Barrie courtroom in wrinkled clothing with his hands cuffed.

The now 63-year-old was arrested in the Dominican Republic in 2020, charged with fraud, money laundering, bribery, personation, use of forged documents, among other crimes.

Last month, he pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 and money laundering.

At the time of his arrest, the OPP said Debono was involved in a "landmark" Ponzi scheme promising investors 15 cents from every transaction with his debit machine business.

The business was a sham.

The court heard more than 500 investors, most in Canada, contributed as much as $41 million starting in 2012.

The Crown said there was no evidence any debit machines ever existed through the business, called 'Debit Direct.'

The court heard that any royalties victims received were money taken from new investors.

The Ontario Serious Frauds Office took over the investigation, which concluded the scheme produced losses of at least $24 million from victims believing they were making legitimate investments.

The Crown said a forensic investigation found that number could be as much as $41 million.

The Crown said Debono's wife and at least one other person were arrested and charged in the Dominican Republic with their matters now before the courts.

Debono's lawyer, who was under the weather forcing proceedings to be adjourned, declined to comment on his client's guilty plea.

The maximum sentence is 14 years behind bars.

The Crown said it would ask for seven due to the guilty plea.

Debono has been in custody for about 18 months.

He is scheduled to be back in court on April 25 for sentencing. Top Stories

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