Warrants were issued Monday for a former Alberta pastor who defrauded investors out of millions of dollars after he missed a second court date that would likely see him sent to jail.
Ronald James Aitkens, 68, was convicted of fraud and making a false or misleading statement in an offering memorandum — both offences under the Alberta Securities Act.
Aitkens was due to be sentenced two weeks ago but didn't show up to court. At the time, defence lawyer Brian Beresh told Justice Lloyd Robertson that his client had COVID and the judge agreed to reschedule the matter.
On Monday, Aitkens was again due in court but did not show up. Beresh told the judge he expected his client to turn up.
"He is not here and I checked my phone," said Beresh. "I've had no communications at all."
'I'll have him personally before me'
The prosecution previously asked Robertson to impose a five-year prison sentence while Beresh asked for a conditional sentence order of less than two years.
Both Crown and defence agreed that Robertson could deliver his sentencing decision and then issue warrants for Aitkens' arrest, but the judge said he wanted the fraudster to appear before him in court.
Robertson issued the warrants for Aitkens' arrest and set the next court date for Nov. 23.
"I'll put it over for two weeks to see whether Mr. Aitkens has been collected on the warrant, and I'll have him personally before me so he can be present for his sentencing hearing."
Aitkens' case has taken more than a decade to make its way through the courts. He was first charged in September 2013.
The delay was due to a failed charter application, Aitkens' health issues and changes in counsel.
Investors 'stuck with the bill'
Aitkens distributed and sold securities in a real estate investment company called Legacy Communities.
More than $35 million was raised from about 1400 investors, some of whom used their RRSP savings, Robertson found in his conviction decision.
The Legacy project involved a 503-acre parcel of real estate on Calgary's western boundary. Investors were told that land would be purchased and developed for the project.
But Aitkens diverted more than $10 million of investors' money to private companies he owned.
"Legacy investors were stuck with the bill but none of the proceeds," wrote Robertson in 2020.