Lethbridge Police have charged a Coaldale man in connection with a gifting circle scam.
Investigation by members of the Economic Crimes Unit determined that between September 2018 and May 2019 gifting circles were introduced in Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton. The scheme promises “no risk” and guarantees a “gift” of $5,000 will result in a return of $40,000. Once funds have been paid the person is then responsible for recruiting two more people to “gift” money. This model requires the recruitment of new members to pay for existing members and eventually leads to a loss of funds by those who have paid in when new recruits cannot be found.
Witnesses who have come forward have advised that there are currently over 500 members and 80 gifting circles, which also extend into British Columbia and Saskatchewan. With these numbers the losses involved would total $2,000,000.
Anyone within a gifting circle receiving monetary “gifts” or payment, may be in possession of property/proceeds of crime, which could result in charges. Further, those willing to promote the scheme and recruit members could also face prosecution.
The LPS investigation identified one main presenter who was promoting the scam in Alberta. He was subsequently arrested and charged.
Steele Cameron Tolman, 57, of Coaldale, is charged with fraud over $5000 and possession of the proceeds of crime over $5000. Tolman was released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court May 17.
Police are hoping to prevent further victimization and are asking anyone who has information about gifting circles to come forward.
**Cst. Yoan Bernatchez with the Economic Crimes Unit, will be available for media interviews today at 11:00 a.m. at the police station. This will be the only opportunity for on-camera interviews**