Ex-OPP officer under investigation by Anti-Rackets Branch

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Ex-OPP officer under investigation by Anti-Rackets Branch

Postby Thomas » Sat Jun 27, 2020 3:15 pm

A former OPP West Region officer is under investigation by the OPP’s Anti-Rackets Branch, provincial police said.

OPP said they are appealing for victims or witnesses of the incident to step forward, although they declined to share information on the incident.

A police spokesperson said that the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch investigates complex frauds, corruption and financial crimes.

“Those that have been victims and/or witness to this incident will/should understand,” Staff Sgt. Carolle Dion told Global News through email.

“The officer worked in West Region and is connected to that area.”

The OPP West region polices a good portion of the small towns and communities in southwestern Ontario as well as the 400-series highways in larger communities.

“As this investigation remains in its early stages we cannot provide further details and/or specifics,” Dion said. “More will be shared as the investigation evolves and we are in a position to release.“

https://globalnews.ca/news/7108092/opp- ... stigation/
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‘Ponzi scheme’ created by a cop ensnares dozens of OPP and m

Postby Thomas » Sat Jun 27, 2020 3:19 pm

‘Ponzi scheme’ created by a cop ensnares dozens of OPP and municipal officers

Dozens of veteran police officers with the OPP and some municipal forces have been caught up in what some consider a “Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme” run by one of their own — a former cop once in charge of the street crime unit west of the GTA.

Before his retirement in 2016, Det. Sgt. Larry Renton briefly operated the investment scheme out of his West Region Ontario Provincial Police office in the town of Simcoe — then continued from his home. He promised investors a staggering 21 to 26 per cent return and suggested in emails that if their financial planner was not providing “a minimum of 10-12 per cent you need to fire them.”

The high return Renton offered may have seemed too good to be true, but that did not stop an estimated 40 officers of all ranks and an unknown number of civilians from putting in their life savings, with total investments estimated by sources between $15 million and $20 million. Mortgages were put on houses, money set aside for college tuition was invested. The whole scheme collapsed recently, leading to financial ruin for some.

“Trust and greed are the two essential elements required of a Ponzi scheme,” said one person with intimate knowledge of the situation. “This had both.” In addition to the high rate of return, police officers were told in emails that if they brought in a new client, they would get a financial bonus worth 5 per cent of the total new investment.

Renton, 56, is on the hot seat — the OPP is now investigating — in a financial misadventure that came crashing down when the global pandemic stopped new investors from contributing money, an essential element of a Ponzi scheme.

The information in this story comes from people with intimate knowledge of the investment scheme (the Star has granted them confidentiality because they fear financial and job repercussions); Renton’s own emails to investors over more than a three-year period; and interviews with senior police officers.

The OPP anti-rackets squad has recently launched an investigation and according to Renton’s own emails, the Ontario Securities Commission is also investigating. The OPP put out a news release this week after the Star asked questions about Renton’s scheme. The release states that police “are investigating a matter involving the financial interactions of a former OPP member” and asks for anyone who was involved to come forward. The release does not name Renton, though police sources confirmed the probe relates to his activities.

According to sources, Renton’s computer hard drives were seized last month from his home by detectives armed with a search warrant. Renton threatened in an April email to close friends that he would take his own life. He was found in a Brantford hotel and was hospitalized for several weeks. He has since left Simcoe to stay with a family member in northern Ontario and has hired a lawyer. His latest email to investors suggests he is contemplating bankruptcy.

“I am under counsel direction to not speak about the matter,” Renton told the Star in a recent email. The Star has sent Renton detailed questions, but has not yet received a response.

Here’s how it all started and ended.

To fix a picture of Larry Renton in your mind, think of the late movie and television actor Brian Dennehy. Burly and broad shouldered, with a big smile while among friends, shy in social settings. Physically, they could be twins.

Though trite to say, Renton was truly a cop’s cop, with decades of experience. News pages of local papers are filled with quotes from Renton. After a 2015 drug bust, he told reporters, “Illicit drugs continue to be a scourge in society and an ongoing threat to the safety of Ontario residents and communities.”

He grew up in Simcoe, a small town in Norfolk County between Hamilton and London, its south edges running along Lake Erie. Renton loves boats, big 40-plus-foot-long cruisers. Just before Christmas, 2018, his old boat was destroyed in a fire the marina owner said was caused by vandalism. That yacht was replaced by a bigger boat. Renton drives a black Cadillac Escalade. He split with his first wife years back and took custody and support duties of their two children, according to a 2008 court decision where a judge noted he paid the “lion’s share” of support. Taking winter cruises with his second wife, a hairdresser, is one of the couple’s favourite pastimes. Renton is from a policing family; two brothers were in the OPP at one point (one became the Woodstock Police Chief, since retired) and his son is an officer in the OPP.

By 2014, he was the detective sergeant investigating street crime, wearing a suit instead of a uniform, occupying an office down the hall from the then-top boss in the Norfolk OPP, Insp. Zvonko “Zonk” Horvat. Renton’s salary in 2014 was $122,931.

One day in 2014, Renton came to Horvat with a request. He asked for permission to have a second job. Renton wanted to work as a financial adviser, in addition to being a detective. Horvat, now the chief of the Aylmer Police department, recalled in an interview he thought that would be a “conflict of interest.” Following protocol, Horvat took Renton’s request to the OPP’s professional standards department. “They backed me up and I told (Renton) it would be inappropriate.”

Not long after, Horvat said he recalls hearing “rumours” that Renton “may be monitoring the stock market or perhaps trading” from his police office. Horvat said he went to see Renton and heard (he cannot recall if it was from a radio or a computer) what seemed to him like “stock market sounds.” Horvat recalls that Renton replied that he “was only listening to stock market reports.” Horvat told Renton to “cease and desist” and he said he never heard any complaints related to Renton and the stock market.

In March 2016, Renton retired at age 52. He dove into his investment business, setting up an office in his basement. Renton is not registered with the province of Ontario as a financial adviser or investment dealer. In his emails to each investor, many of them police, but some civilians, he routinely reminded them that for every big investor they brought him, he would provide a finder’s fee of 5 per cent of the amount invested.

Two people with intimate knowledge of the Renton scheme have referred to it as a “Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme.”

What is a Ponzi scheme? It’s a relatively simple arrangement where early investors are paid an enormous return on their money, with that return coming not from actual investments but from money contributed by subsequent investors. It was named for Carlo Ponzi who ran this type of scheme in Boston in 1920.

The most infamous and largest Ponzi scheme was that carried out in the United States by Bernard (Bernie) Madoff, who is now in prison for a fraud estimated at $65 billion (U.S.). Madoff, as became well known in his court hearings, was not investing money, just paying dividends out of money contributed by new investors. That constant influx of new investors is required to keep a Ponzi scheme going.

The investor sources the Star spoke to recognize that there is no financial size comparison between Madoff and Renton’s scheme, but based on Renton’s own emailed descriptions there appear to be elements of a Ponzi scheme.

In Renton’s case, investors were never shown information that would explain where he is getting such high returns. Other than a few months where Renton asked to delay payments, it appears that until March of this year he was making his promised monthly payments. To put his guaranteed 21 to 26 per cent rate in context, a solid, conservative investment portfolio could be expected, but not guaranteed, to return roughly 6 to 8 per cent in that time period (pre-pandemic.)

Renton’s own emails reveal that the Ontario Securities Commission began a probe into his activities early this year. In March, Renton sent out an email blast warning that the OSC was investigating. He tells his investors “you are not obligated to speak to them.” (The OSC was responding to a complainant who had learned that Renton was not a licensed adviser, a source told the Star.)

According to Renton, the OSC “guy” was asking each investor if “you have seen records of the current value of your investment.”

Renton tells his investors that “in the beginning I explained that I would never show you any records relating to anything I do. The reason behind that is twofold. One, this is a handshake deal based on trust. The second is, why would I show you any records or issue any statements when I don’t trade for you?”

Instead, Renton writes that to keep it “legal,” his investors are giving him a loan, which he will pay back over roughly four years. He does not explain what trades he is making, but in one emailed chart he shows a breakdown of what he does with each “$1,000 profit on a trade.”

Renton, writing in 2017 to his investors, explains that the first “23 per cent goes to pay you guys.” Then he puts aside roughly 43 per cent to pay “federal and provincial taxes.” Then 10 per cent goes to the “data feed charges that I pay to the actual stock exchanges.” Finally, “approximately 25 per cent is my profit that I happily live off of.” (Renton uses rough estimates in this email, which perhaps explains why his percentages add up to 101.)

The Star asked Renton for a further explanation, including proof that he is paying these taxes, but has not yet had a response. One item from his chart should have been an immediate red flag. Stock exchange feeds are free or available for a nominal cost.

Many of the other statements made by Renton defy explanation for anyone who is a sophisticated or even a casual investor. Sources for this story say that the police officer investors, including some who have experience in financial investigations, are “truly unsophisticated investors. They were all bamboozled.”

In one email, Renton tells his investors that every few days, large amounts of the money they have invested are unavailable, due to the fact that his “brokerage” holds on to the money. In one of a series of unusual statements, he tells his investors it all works because “the wheel keeps rolling down the road and rolling the capital in and out of the account. I find this really interesting, but I suspect I put some here to sleep with my tech talk.”

The emails are peppered with his own thoughts on market volatility. He mentions “it has been a lot of fun with the (U.S. president) Trumpster at the wheel” in 2017, and later that year speculates that “since I can make more money on a dropping market than an up market” it is possible that “maybe (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un will help us with that.”

He spends much of the emails talking about his plans to have a secure mobile internet platform when he is off on annual cruises down south with “my bride.” One summer, he set up a “stable trading platform” on his boat in Lake Erie. He said he did that when he went for some “boat drinks” for four days. He warns investors he may be unavailable to conduct trades for weeks at a time when away on vacation.

Renton did purchase, in 2018, a trading algorithm from a Toronto man who told the Star he created it at Renton’s request. On the Toronto man’s website in the testimonial section, he refers to Renton as a “Professional Trader.” But the emails show that Renton himself was still testing it out during the last year using “fake money.” The man who created the trading algorithm said Renton wanted to “beat the markets.”

By late November 2019, the emails indicate Renton is in trouble. He writes that changes in the market “affect my needs for cash capitol (sic).” He offers to raise his finder’s fee from 5 per cent to 6 per cent. According to sources, the investors who received these finder’s fees, and did not report them, are concerned that the Canada Revenue Agency will launch an audit.

When the global pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19 took hold in March, Renton sent an email telling investors he would have to freeze their monthly payments for 30 days. Ironically, Renton’s previous emails had stated that a down market is his best opportunity to make money.

“I am not asking for you to not get your money, I am just asking if you will go without payment for the next 30 days and allow me to increase your payments for the next 11 months,” Renton writes on March 15. “I want to ensure I do what’s best for the money.”

According to sources with knowledge of the police officer’s contributions, some investors were asking for all of their money back. Potential new investors were backing off. This caused a problem for Renton, sources say. With no new investors, how could he pay the promised rate of return?

His next email to the group was April 13, a one-line email. “I will put an update out late this week on possibilities moving forward for the next month during this pandemic and wild markets. Thank you and stay safe.”

On April 17, Renton asks for another “one month more deferral,” saying he “felt really bad asking for this.”

That was Renton’s last communication to the group. Near the end of April, sources say he sent an email to a dozen close friends saying he was going to take his own life. Using a cellular phone tracing system, police tracked him to a hotel in Brantford. He was alive, and taken to a hospital for psychiatric assessment. Sources say he was released several weeks later and at that time the OPP served a search warrant on his house.

One of Renton’s last email blasts in 2020 was a photo of his desk with 12 computer monitors, showing the “trading system” he had built. The screens show what appears to be stock market charts and graphs and Renton said he spends long days in front of the monitors overseeing trades.

Renton also at one point reminds his investors that since most of them receive their payments by PayPal and e-Transfer, that “something that’s kind of cool is you can go into your bank website and set it up to do auto-deposits.”

In the Star’s telephone interview and email exchange with Aylmer Police Chief Horvat (Renton’s former boss at the OPP), Horvat said he hopes the OPP anti-racket squad gets to the bottom of the matter.

Horvat said he was never asked to invest in the scheme, but he has heard “rumours” of officers who did.

“If, in fact, a number of officers invested with (Renton), they should have known better and as this investigation moves forward, I am sure they too will be held accountable for their actions, both from a criminal perspective but also the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). I personally find it offensive that police officers would engage in such activities.”

The OPP has assigned Det. Staff Sgt. Sean Chatland to head the investigation by the anti-rackets branch. Chatland has asked for anyone, police or civilian, who invested to come forward.

Last Wednesday, Renton sent out a brief email to all of his investors, with the subject line: Legal name, address, email address, and best telephone contact number:

“I am liquidating all assets and require the above information to provide to the trustee who then in turn (can) contact you regarding repayment. Thank you. L.”

As of this week, no bankruptcy had been filed by Renton.

The Star has asked Renton, if he did conduct trades, where is the money or at the very least, the documentation showing the money was lost when the markets crashed. He has not responded.

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Retired Simcoe cop named in police probe

Postby Thomas » Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:11 pm

Several independent sources say the former provincial police officer who is the subject of an investigation by the OPP’s Anti-Rackets Branch is retired detective sergeant Larry Renton of Simcoe.

There are unconfirmed reports that large amounts of money, possibly more than a million dollars, may have been lost in connection with the matter, with much of this coming from the law enforcement community.

Friday, Aylmer police chief Zvonko Horvat, former head of the Norfolk OPP, expressed dismay that his name has been cited by others as someone who potentially lost money due to alleged financial irregularities.

“Everyone who (lost) money deserves what they get,” Horvat told The Reformer. “They should know better, that’s my position on it. I can guarantee you that – when this comes out – you will not see my name associated with it.”

While chief of the Norfolk OPP several years ago, Horvat said Renton submitted a secondary-employment request to allow him to work on the side at an investment firm in Simcoe.

Horvat vetoed it, saying it represented a potential “conflict-of-interest.” Horvat said the professional standards bureau at OPP headquarters in Orillia supported him in that decision.

Horvat added he “was appalled” by the reports coming to him about Renton’s alleged activities.

A call to Renton’s home in Simcoe Friday was answered by a woman. The woman said Renton was unavailable. A phone number was offered for a return call.

“I can take it,” the woman said. “But I doubt he will speak to anyone right now.”

The woman was asked if Renton is under investigation for “financial issues.” She replied “I don’t know. I have nothing to say.”

The OPP confirmed Thursday that a former member of the force is under investigation for suspected financial irregularities.

“We are investigating a matter involving the financial interactions of a former OPP member and are asking anyone who may have information or have had dealings of a potentially suspicious nature to contact the OPP (or its) Anti-Rackets Branch,” Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne, a media relations officer with the provincial force, said in an email.

“Basically, we are seeking additional victims and witnesses.”

Dionne would not confirm that the former officer in question has a Norfolk County connection.

“As this investigation remains in its early stages, we cannot provide further details or specifics,” Dionne says. “More will be shared as the investigation evolves and we are in a position to release.”

When asked if the individual in question is Larry Renton, Dionne said police are bound by provincial legislation to keep the names of individuals under investigation confidential.

Another source familiar with the matter spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.

The source alleged that Renton was accepting loans from a wide circle of friends, family and colleagues which he repaid at a high rate of interest.

Lenders, the source said, were told that Renton could pay high rates of interest because he had a fool-proof investment method that gave him an advantage over other security traders.

“There are people in the anti-fraud unit who gave him money who should know better,” the source said.

There are also reports that the anti-rackets probe involves alleged victims who are members of a police service in the Greater Toronto Area.

Two other individuals with knowledge of the case have also cited Renton as the person under investigation.

The OPP ask anyone who had suspicious financial dealings with a former member of the force to share their experience with authorities. Anyone with information related to this investigation is encouraged to contact the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122.

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Civilian complainant blew whistle on ‘Ponzi scheme’ involvin

Postby Thomas » Fri Jul 17, 2020 4:47 am

Civilian complainant blew whistle on ‘Ponzi scheme’ involving current and former OPP officers

It was a complaint from a civilian that launched a major investigation into a multi-million dollar “Ponzi scheme” that ensnared dozens of Ontario Provincial Police officers and was allegedly created by one of their own now retired members.

When the global pandemic caused the scheme — which promised staggering investment returns of up to 26 per cent — to blow up in late May, an upset civilian investor walked into a London, Ont.-area OPP office and blew the whistle, two police sources have confirmed to the Star. None of the police officers who had invested in the scheme made a complaint, sources say.

Meanwhile, the OPP is now making a broad appeal for people affected by the scheme to come forward as many, particularly police officers who invested, have yet to do so.

“Are there people trying to avoid us? Absolutely,” said OPP Det. Supt. Domenic Chong, who oversees financial crimes investigations.

Sources close to the case have told the Star that some officers are afraid they will be disciplined for taking part, while others are embarrassed that they, seasoned officers (some high ranking, with experience investigating frauds), failed to ask proper questions of a scheme that promised almost impossibly high rates of return.

“Everybody was so dazzled at the money they were making or could make,” one source with knowledge of the scheme told the Star.

When the civilian investor complained, officers at the London-area detachment did not know what to do, particularly because it involved fellow officers, many of them from that geographical area of the OPP. The gist of the complaint was this: Retired OPP officer Larry Renton, who portrayed himself to his “clients” as a shrewd player in the financial markets, had since at least 2016 been promising whopping returns to OPP and municipal officers, and a select group of non officers including lawyers and businessmen.

Renton retired from the OPP in 2016. He was a detective sergeant in charge of street crime in the Simcoe area. Many of the initial investors were people Renton worked with at the OPP’s West Region OPP office in Simcoe, or retired OPP officers from the area who had moved to municipal forces. His former boss in Simcoe, Insp. Zvonko “Zonk” Horvat, said at one point in 2014 Renton asked for permission to have a second job as a financial adviser, and he turned him down. He also noticed Renton monitoring the markets from his detective office, and told him to stop.

Once the scheme got rolling, Renton not only offered high returns, he was promising to pay his existing clients a finders fee equal to 5 per cent of each new investment they brought in. Sources say that some investors did not declare this finders fee income on their tax return.

“I just want to send a thank you out to everyone that has helped out by increasing their position or bringing a new person forward,” Renton wrote in one email in early 2020. “It is a great help to me.”

According to emails from Renton to his clients, his clients were receiving regular payouts until early in 2020. When the pandemic hit, sources say, two things happened. First, people who were considering investing in the scheme backed out, meaning there was no new source of income, an essential to a “Ponzi scheme,” which relies on a continual influx of investment. Second, existing investors wanted their money out.

Sources say that, as is typically the case with a so-called “Ponzi”-style investment scheme, early participants get their money out, but more recent participants only get paid out if they stay in long enough and if new participants join.

Renton wrote to his investor group in March, asking his clients to wait a month for their payments, which he made by PayPal or e-transfer. Then in April, he again asked to delay their payments. “My request at this time is for some further support,” Renton wrote in an email on April 17. “I am asking for one more month deferral,” adding that it would not affect their overall return because “I will simply increase the payments for the next 10 months.”

That was the last investor email Renton sent, though he sent an email to 12 close friends in late April saying he was going to end his life (police found him in a hotel room in Brantford and he was hospitalized for several weeks).

On May 24, a civilian investor, worried his money was lost, made a report to the London-area OPP fraud squad. The Ontario Securities Commission has told the Star it began an investigation into Renton earlier in the year, something referenced in Renton’s emails.

Det. Supt. Chong said the London-area fraud squad decided it was “a complicated fraud beyond the means of the detachment to investigate.” He also said that, given the “elephant in the room” — the allegations involved police in western region of the force — a decision was made that the Orillia-based anti rackets squad would take over the probe.

To date, Chong said they have identified more than two dozen victims of what police and investment sources have told the Star was a “classic Ponzi scheme.” The Star’s sources say investors contributed as much as $800,000 into a pool of money and the allegation police are now investigating is that their huge returns (21-26 per cent of the investment) were paid not from investment in the markets, but from money contributed by later investors.

The Star’s sources say that as many as 70 victims, mainly police officers, current and retired, are involved. The Star’s sources say that at least $15 million was invested, but the number may be much higher. At least three members of Renton’s family, all police officers retired or current, invested. In one case, a retired officer has put up a house and cottage for sale due to financial pressures caused by the scheme, sources say.

Chong said police know there are additional victims out there but due to the “stigma” with financial crimes — embarrassment being one of the main ones — they have not come forward.

The Star’s sources have suggested that it is a conflict of interest for the OPP to investigate this case.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique and Chong told the Star that, for now, they see no reason to ask an outside force to get involved.

Carrique said the probe is “being pursued with great seriousness.”

As to the alleged involvement of so many officers, Carrique said he is sensitive to that issue.

“I certainly understand the impact that allegations like this make on the trust of the public in the police,” Carrique told the Star in an interview.

“This is an active, ongoing investigation,” Carrique said. “This is even more concerning because it concerns allegations that involve a former member of the OPP.”

Renton has told the Star he has been instructed by “counsel” not to speak about the matter. He has not responded to a request to identify his lawyer, nor has he responded to a series of questions sent to him by the Star.

Senior OPP officers have told the Star that while they have had “contact” with Renton, he has not been “formally interviewed.”

Det. Supt. Chong said it bothers him that police officers, whether current or retired, are involved in the scheme. “But police officers are just like anyone else, some great, some not so great.”

The OPP has asked anyone with information to contact the anti-rackets investigating officer, Det. Staff Sgt. Sean Chatland at 1-888-310-1122 or emailing OPP.IB.Anti-Rackets@opp.ca.

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