Edmonton woman charged in $1.8M Ponzi scheme

By Jana G. Pruden and Jodi Sinnema, Edmonton JournalMarch 26, 2013


EDMONTON – Edmonton police say a woman used her job at the Workers’ Compensation Board and connections in the Filipino community to perpetrate an alleged $1.8-million Ponzi scheme.

Carmelita Del Rosario, 42, is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 for allegedly bilking 49 people out of amounts ranging from $2,000 to an estimated $25,000 or $35,000.

Staff Sgt. Dan Service said her victims believed they were putting money into a legitimate WCB investment fund, which doesn’t exist and is not a service offered by the WCB.

Police say the money is virtually all gone, part of it given in payouts to investors to make it appear like the investment was legitimate, the rest going toward “lifestyle.” Service wouldn’t give specifics of what the “lifestyle” expenditures were, or whether gambling was involved, but said there is no money available to be recovered.

Maria Que said she invested and lost $50,000 through the scheme.

“It impacted us so much,” said Que, a registered nurse in Edmonton. “Fifty thousand is big money.”

Yet Que said most people invested far more, up to $150,000, and cashed out savings and RRSPs and are now heading into retirement without the needed money.

“It is hard but you have to keep going. We still have to work, to survive,” Que said. She said she was introduced to Del Rosario through a very close friend whom she trusted. That friend started investing one year before Que did.

Que said the money changed hands in the parking lot of the WCB. Del Rosario explained that by saying only her relatives were allowed to invest, but she was now letting others into the plan as well, Que said.

Que said she still hopes to get a quarter or half her money back, since she heard Del Rosario invested in properties both here in Canada and in the Philippines.

The case came to police attention after the investors went en masse to file a police report last summer. Charges were laid against Del Rosario after a six-month investigation. Police allege the frauds in this case occurred between February 2009 and May 2012. She is slated to appear in court next on April 30.

A Ponzi scheme lures trusting investors with the promise of high rates of return and can initially look legitimate by paying out dividends — but the payouts come from other investors’ money, not by earnings. Service said “affinity schemes,” such as the one alleged against Del Rosario, often operate by using relationships and trust.

In this case, Service said he believes many of the complainants are in Canada on work visas or are landed immigrants who may be supporting family members in the Philippines, and that the victimization traverses Canadian borders.

“The loss to them is tremendous,” he said.

A LinkedIn profile describes Del Rosario as a “finance analyst” at Millard Health, a health-provider wing of the WCB of Alberta. In an emailed statement, WCB spokesman Shawn Friedenberger said Del Rosario “is not and has never been an investment analyst with the organization.” Instead, he described her as being in a “minor clerical role.” He said he didn’t know how long she worked there.

Edmonton police Det. James MacDonald advised people to be cautious and diligent when investing, to get second opinions, and to be wary of financial deals that take place in coffee shops or parking lots. He also repeated the same time-worn adage police have used countless times since Charles Ponzi was operating his own scheme a century ago: “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”


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