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Planned web series to shine light on alleged Fortress Real scam

by Neil Sharma on 29 Dec 2020

A new web series exploring white-collar crime in Canada has its sights set on a recent headline-grabbing saga that saw about 14,000 Ontarians bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The series, Capitalisms—which is relying on a GoFundMe page to finance its production—intends to focus its first season, entitled “Fortress,” on the alleged syndicated mortgage fraud perpetrated by Fortress Real Developments, in which its two directors, Jawad Rathore and Vince Petrozza pocketed roughly 17% of $920 million raised, and the toll its taken on investors’ lives. According to a news release, the season will also profile experts and whistleblowers—including Ben Rabidoux who successfully fought a defamation suit by Fortress Real, albeit at a great financial cost he’s yet to recoup—who claim they were bullied with threats and legal intimidation.

Rathore and Petrozza were fined $250,000 in September by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), successor to the disbanded Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) that initiated proceedings.

Bryan Bakker, Capitalisms’ producer and director, wants to highlight how victims of such flagrant crimes are short-shrifted by the legal system.

“This series, more than anything, is about exploring the disparity between the rules for the 1% and the rules for the rest of us; the Capitalisms that divide us,” he said in the release.

David Franklin, a Toronto-based lawyer, has long been critical of the regulatory bodies he believes failed to protect investors from the alleged Fortress Real scam, which he previously told CREW is writ large in the meagre fine the company received.

“That is unbelievable, how in God’s name could they do that? That shows you that even FSRA isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing because there should be a major penalty,” said Franklin. “The fine is a joke and it took away their credibility. It’s an insult, given all the stuff that’s been in the media. What’s the purpose of FSRA? It encourages people to commit illegal acts because the penalty was so small.”

A petition is also in circulation to open a provincial inquiry into what it asserts is FSCO’s failed handling of the alleged fraud, noting there was mounting evidence the company exploited syndicated mortgages to enrich its directors, and failure to protect investors.

“[It] demands an independent public inquiry to investigate FSCO’s handling of Fortress and affiliate brokerages for syndicated mortgage complaints and its failed duty to protect the investors,” said Corinne Sutej, a former HR professional living in Ottawa who says she lost $25,000 on a Calgary-based project called The Orchard.

“We’d also like them to investigate the executives, from the top down, of the licencing and market conduct division, the investigative team, their procedures, what their escalation and complaint processes were, risk management, and adherence to legislation,” Sutej added.

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