Former Victoria financial adviser pleads guilty to 20 counts of fraud

VANCOUVER, B.C. - A former financial adviser from Victoria who cheated investors out of millions of dollars to pay for his own lavish lifestyle and before fleeing to the United States has pleaded guilty to 20 counts of fraud.

VANCOUVER, B.C. - A former financial adviser from Victoria who cheated investors out of millions of dollars to pay for his own lavish lifestyle and before fleeing to the United States has pleaded guilty to 20 counts of fraud.

Ian Thow entered the guilty plea on Monday in B.C. Supreme Court, a year after he was arrested in Portland, Ore. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

Thow was facing 25 counts for bilking investors while he worked with Berkshire Investment Group. His guilty plea covers 20 charges together worth about $10 million, representing a loss of just under $8 million, said his lawyer Angela Rinaldis.

Thow persuaded investors to put their money into non-existent securities and plowed the money into his own bank accounts to pay for luxuries including his own private plane.

He disappeared after the fraud came to light, but was arrested by U.S. marshals in February 2009 as he left his Portland condominium to go jogging .

After his guilty plea, the judge hearing the case asked Thow whether he had anything to say for himself.

"I think my lawyer has said all that's needed to be said," Thow replied.

The court heard victim impact statements from about a dozen mostly retired people, including some who lost their life savings.

Thow didn't address his victims, some of whom were watching the hearing by video link, but his lawyer said Thow has accepted responsibility for the fraud.

"He has pled guilty at the first available opportunity to him, he has acknowledged the wrong that he has done to the victims and he is prepared to serve his time," Rinaldis said in an interview.

"And he will serve time."

The Crown and defence submitted a joint recommendation for a sentence of seven years in prison, which would be reduced to about five years after taking into account the time he has already spent in custody.

In December 2007, the B.C. Securities Commission imposed a $6 million fine against Thow and banned him from the securities industry. The fine was later overturned and reduced to $250,000.