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Fortress founders charged in mortgage investments scheme

Police say founders were behind 'ongoing scheme whereby they did not disclose the various risks to brokers and investors'
2020-09-21 Collier Centre RB 3
Collier Centre is located in downtown Barrie at the corner of Mulcaster and Collier streets. | Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday file photo

A six-year investigation has led to charges in connection with a syndicated mortgage investment scheme in which investors have said hundreds of Canadians lost millions of dollars.

At its core are investments made in several developments across the country, including Barrie’s Collier Centre and a network of projects in the Simcoe County area.

Vince Petrozza of Richmond Hill and Jawad Rathore of Markham have each been charged with fraud and secret commissions, which are Criminal Code charges.

The founders of Fortress Real Developments are accused of engaging in fraud “by orchestrating an ongoing scheme whereby they did not disclose the various risks to brokers and investors,” according to a news release issued by the RCMP.

Money raised through syndicated mortgages was intended to finance dozens of real estate developments across the country, many of which ultimately failed.

One of the largest projects was Collier Centre in downtown Barrie, a residential, office and commercial complex across from city hall. The project has long been completed under other owners and the adjoining condos occupied while plans for the office and commercial space continue.

The Barrie project alone involved hundreds of investors.

A group called Victims of Syndicated Mortgage Investments, which included investors from Simcoe County, launched a petition last year calling for a forensic inquiry.

The RCMP’s integrated market enforcement team probe into Fortress Real Developments began in 2016 and was dubbed Project Dynasty.

The specialized unit focuses on complaints related to the country’s capital markets.

Petrozza and Rathore are scheduled to appear in a Toronto court on Aug. 3.