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Toronto businessman accused of $12M pandemic Ponzi scheme found and charged with fraud

A Toronto businessman accused of orchestrating a $12-million pandemic-related Ponzi scheme was arrested and charged with fraud by Toronto police on Monday, just hours after investigators discovered his location, CBC News has learned. 

Mark E. Cohen’s whereabouts had been unknown since last August. 

At the time, shadowy figures with ties to underground gambling rings, and others, began showing up at his former North York home demanding to know where he was and that he return large sums of money they had invested with him, according to a source familiar with the situation who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

CBC News previously reported on those efforts to find Cohen and three lawsuits accusing Cohen of convincing investors to help him buy used cars that would be resold at huge profits amid the pandemic-triggered vehicle shortage last year.

The 42-year-old faces two charges of fraud over $5,000.

A Toronto police spokesperson confirmed Cohen’s arrest and the charges against him in an email to CBC News. 

toronto businessman accused of 12m pandemic ponzi scheme found and charged with fraud
Last August, one plaintiff alleges he discovered bank accounts shown above and associated with Cohen’s car business had been drained, according to his affidavit filed in court. (Submitted by Karrass Law)

Cohen appeared in Ontario Court of Justice in downtown Toronto on Tuesday and was released on bail. 

None of the criminal charges laid against Cohen or the allegations against him in civil filings have been proven in court.

In an email to CBC News, Cohen vowed to fight the allegations and denies he was avoiding anyone.

“I 100 per cent have been able to be reached since the summer of last year. These allegations are absurd and ludicrous,” he wrote.  

“I deny all allegations made against me and I will defend my name and any claim against me”

Promised monthly returns of up to 13%: lawsuit

Cohen and others began contacting investors to pitch what they said would be a lucrative business venture in the fall of 2020, according to a statement of claim filed in December. 

He and others allegedly promised Cohen would be able to purchase used vehicles from rental companies across Canada. They included Jeeps, Toyota Camrys, Honda Civics and BMW X3s bought at below market value, according to the court documents.

The alleged plan was to resell them to dealerships at significantly higher prices to generate “extraordinary returns on investment,” the statement of claim says. 

In the beginning, investors would get back the promised high returns, which encouraged them to invest more, the statement of claim states. 

The promised returns were as high as 13 per cent a month. Some investors handed over more than $5 million before Cohen allegedly disappeared with their money, according to the civil court filings. In total, lawyers for the plaintiffs allege Cohen stole more than $12 million.

toronto businessman accused of 12m pandemic ponzi scheme found and charged with fraud 1
Toronto police are seen Monday outside a Vaughan, Ont., home where Cohen was arrested. (Submitted by name withheld)

Late-night visits from shadowy people

While some of the investors turned to the courts for recourse, CBC News reported in January that Cohen left his former North York home as the alleged fraud began to unravel and investors could no longer reach him last summer.  

According to a source familiar with the situation who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, some of those individuals have ties to illegal gambling rings in Woodbridge, Ont., north of Toronto. 

The source said those investors made late-night visits to Cohen’s former home and the homes of at least two family members, making violent threats and demanding to know Cohen’s whereabouts to get their money back. 

Cohen was arrested Monday afternoon outside a Vaughan, Ont., home where he had been living for the past several weeks.

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