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Metro Vancouver fraudsters fined $1.5M for personal spending spree

Three North Shore residents have been handed six-figure penalties and repayment orders following a personal spending spree with investors' money.
The B.C. Securities Commission is located in downtown Vancouver and regulates registered public companies and securities-related transactions in B.C.

The B.C. Securities Commission has issued more than $1.5 million in administrative fines and repayment orders against three Metro Vancouver residents found to have defrauded two victims.

West Vancouver residents John Sand and Jolyon Charles Christopher Gulston and North Vancouver resident Karol Achs must each pay a $380,000 administrative penalty for lying while convincing two people to invest in a start-up venture, the commission stated Dec. 6 following a disciplinary decision.

Sand, Gulston and Achs were found to have committed fraud against two other B.C. residents — understood to be an insurance broker and medical doctor — who believed the trio would use their $600,000 to develop a fuel cell battery product.

Instead, the trio — who purported to operate their nascent battery business in North Vancouver — used more than $360,000 for personal purposes, including cash withdrawals, credit card payments, loan payments to themselves and relatives, cellphone and grocery bills and legal fees with no ties to the proposed venture, according to an Aug. 15 ruling.

As such, each of them must also re-pay the estimated amounts they obtained from their wrongdoing: Achs, $180,000; Sand, $120,000; and Gulston, $100,000. 

“The level of seriousness of the fraud here was significant,” noted the commission’s disciplinary panel Dec. 6.

“The dishonesty was intentional and planned and included the creation of false documents and a failure to keep the types of records which would allow the flow of funds to be accurately tracked. The respondents directly benefited from their misconduct,” added the panel.

Sand, Gulston and Achs have also been found "unfit to act as a registrant, director, officer, or advisor" and are now permanently banned from holding such positions. They are also permanently prohibited from trading or purchasing securities or derivatives, and from other investment market activities, according to the disciplinary decision.

There were no mitigating factors in the decision and no evidence of prior misconduct by any of the respondents, the decision noted.

It’s unclear if the trio has the means to pay the fines; most penalties from the commission go unpaid as perpetrators typically have no money or assets in their names, according to the commission. Rather, the lofty fines are intended to act as a deterrent.

The disciplinary panel decided on the fine amounts based on four previous fraud decisions. All four cited cases show unpaid fines on the commission’s sanction payment status list.

The commission was granted the power to block a sanctioned individual from renewing their driver's licence should they not, at minimum, present a repayment plan.

The commission only issues administrative penalties and refers cases for criminal prosecution on a case-by-case basis. There are three cases investigated by the Commission’s Criminal Investigations Branch that are currently before the courts, according to the commission’s enforcement section online.

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