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2 Calgary men charged in multi-million-dollar fraud case involving camping, cabin lots in B.C.

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Two Calgary men have been charged in a multi-million-dollar fraud case dating back to 2014.

In a news release Wednesday morning, the Calgary Police Service alleged two men fraudulently sold RV camping lots, cabin lots and dock spaces at a resort in British Columbia to numerous unsuspecting Calgarians.

Police say between 2014 and 2017, a man fraudulently sold RV park sites as the owner and operator of Sweetwater Resort, a land development project on the shores of Lake Koocanusa, B.C. Other names were used for the resort including Sweetwater RV Park and Sweetwater at Lake Koocanusa, according to the CPS.

Police said more than $2 million was obtained from multiple victims who believes they were purchasing legitimate lot and dock spaces.

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It’s estimated at least 85 people were victims of the scam, with most handing over tens of thousands of dollars – in some cases close to $100,000 – to secure lots and boat slips.

“In reality, once your money leaves your hands and it’s in a fraudulent situation, your money’s going to be gone,” Gawlinski said.

Investigators said the project started in 2010 somewhat legitimately with some lots being sold and developed legally, which enticed more people to buy in.

An investigation was launched when customers contacted police with suspicions about the legitimacy of the transactions. Police say customers grew wary when communication with the lot owner became infrequent.

Police said the investigation revealed the sales contracts from the RV park site transactions were invalid.

Carlos Farpelha told Global News he lost his life savings trying to buy a lot at Sweetwater, which he and his family “fell in love with.”

“It was it was the goal going forward, the dream, to build a home there,” he said.

“We thought we were on a safe bet, which was not the case at all.”

Farpelha said because of all the money they lost, he’s had to return to work full-time. He warned people to do sufficient research before investing big dollars in something like this.

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Amy Carver was also a victim of the Sweetwater fraud, and thought she was paying for a boat slip that couldn’t be sold.

She said the salesperson was “very believable.”

“He had a waiting list thousands long, right? Whether that was true, I don’t know, but, that was the story,” she said.

Sweetwater RV Park has since been ordered to close by the Regional District Office of East Kootenay.

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Craig Douglas McMorran, 61, of Calgary, has been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of money laundering and one count of theft over $5,000.

Police also allege McMorran sold dock spaces for boats in the marina called “boat slips” at the resort. The transactions were invalid because the slips were submerged on Crown land and could not be legally sold. In B.C., marina spaces can only be leased or rented, not sold.

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As the investigation progressed, police believed that McMorran acted with an associate who was also allegedly participating in the fraudulent sales of cabin lots while acting as the sales manager for the resort between 2013 and 2016.

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Calgary police urge people to research the company before buying and land or lot package, and have a lawyer look over contracts to ensure they’re legitimate.

“Finding out you are a victim of fraud can be devastating and can have lasting emotional and financial impacts,” Staff Sgt. Geoff Gawlinski said in a news release.

“We encourage anyone who believes they are a victim of any fraud to report it to police so we can investigate appropriately.”

Gus Kalabalikis, 53, of Calgary, has been charged with one count of theft over $5,000 and three counts of fraud over $5,000.

McMorran was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 16 in Calgary. He is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 7.

Kalabalikis was arrested earlier this week and is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

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