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Victims say Barrie, Ont. man's landmark Ponzi scheme left them ruined

The sentencing hearing for a Barrie, Ont. man at the centre of a landmark Ponzi scheme concluded on Monday with impact statements from victims who say it ruined their lives and marriages.

"This financial loss has been absolutely devastating to us," said one couple who told the court that investing in Charles Debono's bogus debit machine business cost them their retirement plans. "How could someone steal someone's livelihood and financial stability?"

In February, Debono, 63, pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud, which holds a maximum penalty of 14 years.

The Crown told the court Debono promised investors in his bogus debit machine business, called 'Debit Direct,' a 15-cent return on every transaction.

The Crown said the scheme, involving more than 500 victims, led to more than $29 million in losses for investors.

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One woman told the court her brother died a broken man after investing.

She said her brother felt "profound humiliation, despair and regret," adding "he was preyed upon."

She said the "shock and shame of being swindled" contributed to his death in 2018.

"He didn't have much to live for," she added.

Another man told the court his wife left him after he told her their money was gone. "My life as it was is gone. I am not able to see much of anything. I do not have a marriage anymore."

He told Debono, "I simply cannot change the past. I wish there was a way to exact revenge for the harm you've done to my wife and kids," adding, "My only wish is you would have been caught earlier."

Afterwards, the Ponzi scheme mastermind addressed the court and apologized.

"I know they were very greedy, very selfish actions on my part, and I will do my best to make restitution," Debono said.

Debono's lawyer told the court his client plans to make everyone whole again.

The defence is asking for Debono to serve five years, while the Crown wants him to spend seven years behind bars and for Debono to pay restitution to his victims within five years of his release or face another seven years in prison.

Justice Michelle Fuerst will now decide how much longer Debono will spend behind bars for orchestrating one of Ontario's largest Ponzi schemes.

She will hand down her sentencing decision in late June. Top Stories

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