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Former head of Ont. tech company charged in $6M fraud case

A years-long fraud investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police’s anti-rackets branch has resulted in fraud and other charges for the former head of BioNorth Technology Group, Frank Benincasa.

North Bay OPP received several fraud complaints in July 2018 in relation to a $6 million syndicated mortgage investment into BioNorth Technology Real Estate, also operating as the BioNorth Tech Group.

Acting Det. Sgt. John Armit told CTV News the case was referred to the anti-rackets branch in January 2019 because of its size and complexity.

Syndicated mortgage investments (SMIs) are a way for companies to raise development money. Several investors pool their money into a single mortgage, using the company’s land as collateral.

Benincasa, 59, is also charged with using forged documents to convince the investors to proceed with the SMI.

He is charged with fraud over $5,000 and using a forged document and false pretences to facilitate the fraud.

Armit said the documents were allegedly used to convince investors that the safety of the investment was “guaranteed.”

The accused was arrested on March 13, 2024, and was subsequently released from custody and is scheduled to appear before the Ontario Court of Justice in North Bay on April 30.

Armit told CTV News that these sorts of cases often take years to investigate not only because of their complexity, but because they often involve several countries.

“There are so many jurisdictions involved,” he said.

In a related case, mutual fund dealer Leszek Dziadecki was found guilty in 2023 of misconduct for promoting the BioNorth SMIs to Polish investors.

According to the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada, Dziadecki ran ads in Poland promoting the BioNorth SMIs as “a good, safe investment … describing it as ‘next level Investment,’ a ‘gold egg,’ ‘almost guaranteed’ and having ‘no risk.’ This was confirmed in the affidavits and testimony of the investors.”

Polish investors

He managed to raise $1,045,900 from investors, even advising some to liquidate existing mutual funds to raise the cash. The investors lost all of their money.

“After receiving the initial interest payments, interest payments ceased in 2017,” the investigation concluded.

“In June 2018, when the BioNorth SMI was to mature, BioNorth did not repay the principal. On Nov. 17, 2020, the mortgaged property was sold pursuant to a tax sale. There was insufficient funds from the tax sale to repay the investors and the BioNorth SMI was discharged.”

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians reported losing more than $568 million to fraud in 2023.

It is estimated that only five to 10 per cent of victims report fraud to the CAFC or law enforcement.

Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of this or any fraud is urged to contact their local police, the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or ontariocrimestoppers.ca.

You can also report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501. For resources on scams and fraud, visit antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

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