'Unrepentant' fraudster and wife charged in Ponzi scheme that cost investors millions

·2 min read
B.C. couple Shannon and Brian Kitts are charged in a multimillion-dollar Calgary-based Ponzi scheme. (Brian Kitts Facebook page - image credit)
B.C. couple Shannon and Brian Kitts are charged in a multimillion-dollar Calgary-based Ponzi scheme. (Brian Kitts Facebook page - image credit)

An "unrepentant" fraudster who fled to Canada before he could be sentenced in Utah has been charged alongside his wife in a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme involving several Calgary-based companies.

Following what RCMP describe as an "extensive" investigation, Brian Kitts, 65, and Shannon Kitts, 55, from Summerland, B.C., are now charged with fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000 and money laundering.

The alleged crimes, which RCMP say resulted in the loss of millions of dollars for various investors, took place between February 2014 and September 2016, and involved several companies including Vesta Capcorp Inc. and Vesta Equity Partners.

The pair will appear in court in Calgary next month.

'A brazen scofflaw'

In 2019, the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) issued sanctions against Brian Kitts and Vesta Capcorp Inc. The ASC's 15-page decision offers details of Kitts' history of defrauding investors.

At some point before 2014, Kitts was facing securities and criminal charges in the U.S. and failed to appear before the Utah Securities Commission, according to the ASC decision.

In 2018, a Utah judge handed down a sentence of at least four years in an American prison but, by that time, Kitts had already taken off.

"Rather than accept responsibility for his conduct, Kitts absconded and embarked on a new fraud in Canada and elsewhere in the United States," reads the ASC's 2019 decision.

"The continuation and escalation of Kitts' fraudulent activity in Alberta, while a fugitive from the criminal proceedings he was facing in Utah, is a significant aggravating factor. His behaviour is indicative of a brazen scofflaw with a callous disregard for the victims he duped."

'An unrepentant recidivist'

According to the 2019 press release issued by ASC, about 38 investors lost more than $5 million.

The ASC found Kitts knew the investment opportunities presented to his investors were "fictitious," and that he used funds for unauthorized purposes, including for his own, and his wife's benefit.

Vesta raised money from investors through the issuance of short-term promissory notes which committed to repaying principal and profit sharing at a 20 per cent monthly rate of return.

The panel labelled Kitts' misconduct as "egregious" and found he "planned to defraud innocent investors from the outset."

He was called "an unrepentant recidivist" in the decision.

In the more recent criminal investigation, RCMP worked with the ASC and FBI among others.

"Unfortunately, the victims sustained substantial losses as a result of their investment within the Ponzi scheme they believed to be legitimate," said Insp. Charlene O'Neill, with RCMP's integrated market enforcement team.

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg. You can read more of her recent stories here: