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Canmore accountant accused of running 'Ponzi scheme' awaiting trial verdict

Court of Queens Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik will decide the fate of the former Canmore accountant on March 27

CALGARY – Court of Queens Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik will be deciding a former Canmore accountant's fate on March 27.

Following the two-and-a-half-week trial for James "Russ" Neilson, who is facing charges of defrauding approximately 40 people around $5.5 million, Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston and Neilson, who was self-represented, gave closing arguments on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24

"As a self-represented person, at times this has been confusing and challenging," Neilson opened his closing arguments on Jan. 24.

Neilson said while owning the Canmore-based business Abaca Solutions he “adopted a hands-off and highly delegated style of management.”

“I did not have involvement of reviewing the statements and I wasn’t involved with doing the work … the Crown has not presented any evidence on who was in charge of creating these documents,” Neilson said.

The Crown showed financial documents during its closing arguments on Jan. 22 where investors money would go into the business bank account and the money would be used to pay Non-Sufficient Fund (NSF) fees, dividend cheques for other investors and sometimes used for significant cash withdrawals.

Johnston said the evidence was “overwhelming” and referred to the practice as a “Ponzi scheme.”  

Neilson attempted to bring up things that happened in his personal life at the time of the alleged fraud, but the judge reminded him that he had opted not to testify and Neilson was not allowed to bring up new evidence during closing arguments.

Justice Eidsvik said she will be reserving her decision until March.

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