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Infamous Victoria financial advisor Ian Thow on fast track for parole

Oct 25 2012
The mugshot of Ian Thow, who was captured by U.S. Marshalls in Oregon yesterday and is scheduled to appear in court today. 

The mugshot of Ian Thow, who was captured by U.S. Marshalls in Oregon yesterday and is scheduled to appear in court today.

Photograph by: Provided , Canwest News Service

A recent Supreme Court ruling means Ian Thow could be out on parole within weeks.

The former Victoria investment adviser is serving a nine-year sentence at the minimum security Ferndale Institution north of Mission for defrauding 20 clients of $8 million.

Prior to its abolition in the spring of 2011, "accelerated parole review" allowed first-time, non-violent offenders to seek parole after serving just one-sixth of their sentences.

That meant Thow, who was sentenced in March 2010 and turned down for both day and full parole in January of this year, would have been eligible to apply for accelerated day parole in May.

But a Supreme Court ruling this summer prohibited Ottawa from applying the Abolition of Early Parole Act retroactively.

The court's ruling meant accelerated day parole would be reinstated for non-violent criminals sentenced before the act became law.

More than 50 individuals currently behind bars in B.C. could qualify for parole immediately as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Patrick Storey, spokesman of the Parole Board for Canada's Pacific regional office, said it is unclear when a parole decision will be made in Thow's case, but indicated it will be soon.

"They are assessing the cases in order of priority," said Storey. "It's all being expedited because of the fact they are all past their eligibility dates, so the obligation of the system is to get them out as soon as possible."

Andrea Racicot, who, along with husband Gene, was bilked of $375,000 by Thow, said she just wants to forget Thow - a sentiment echoed by a number of his former clients.

"The whole thing with him is kind of out of my mind ... he is out of my mind," Racicot said. "Looking for revenge or being angry doesn't get you anywhere - it's not a positive thing."

Among the white-collar criminals already released after the court's ruling was Port Alberni's Judith Slobbe, who was sentenced to seven years and seven months in prison in 2010 for defrauding seniors of more than $700,000.

Parole is not automatic for those now eligible to apply, said Storey, noting Thow's file will be reviewed initially by one member of the parole board.

However, Storey said if that board member believes Thow is likely to commit a violent offence before the end of his parole, there would be a second hearing with two members of the parole board.

"The board has to be satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe he will commit a violent offence before the end of his sentence [for Thow to be denied parole]," said Storey. "The mere fact that he has some violence in his history may not preclude accelerated parole."

When it denied Thow parole earlier this year, the parole board pointed to his history of deceit, lack of remorse and an inadequate plan for life after prison.

The board was scathing in its assessment of Thow, accusing him of "callous disregard" for his victims.

The board also heard that Thow's history includes charges of assault, domestic assault and interference with reporting domestic violence in Seattle in 2006, stemming from an incident involving his second wife, Alyssa.

A report given to the parole board said Thow is alleged to have assaulted Alyssa after she refused to have sex with him.

Charges in that incident were later dismissed.

The RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team led a five-year investigation into Thow, a former Berkshire Investment Group vice-president, based on allegations he cheated clients and friends out of more than $32 million. He was ultimately charged with defrauding 20 victims of $8 million.

Thow persuaded clients to invest in several schemes, including shares in a Jamaican bank and short-term loans for developers. The investments were never made and the Crown characterized Thow's actions as a classic Ponzi scheme.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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