BY KEITH LACEY
Victims of financial adviser turned scammer Pierre Montpellier have received some of the money they lost.
Thanks to a deal worked out by Sudbury lawyer Leo Arseneau in civil proceedings launched against Montpellier and companies he used to own, 130 people received some of the money they invested.
Sources say the majority of money obtained in the civil proceedings came from Regal Capital Planners Ltd., a firm required by the province to oversee Montpellier?s companies when the criminal activities took place.
Victims received their cheques in December. They had to sign confidentiality agreements, but several agreed to talk to Northern Life as long as their identity was not revealed.
The deal effectively ends the sad saga of one of the most notorious crimes in this city?s long history.
Montpellier?s victims launched a civil action soon after police confirmed the former financial adviser had skipped town and had travelled to Europe to attempt to recoup their investments.
As was made clear at his criminal trial, Montpellier never recovered a penny and spent the more than $5 million he?d stolen on living a lifestyle afforded only to the truly wealthy.
The deal arranged by Arseneau saw clients in the lawsuit receive 66 percent of the money they lost to Montpellier. Once legal fees were subtracted, the victims ended up with just under 50 percent of the money Montpellier duped them of many years ago.
Montpellier, 43, spent 31 months in pre-trial custody at the Sudbury district jail. He eventually pleaded guilty to defrauding 130 former clients of $5.37
million between 1995 and 1998.
Montpellier was released from a federal penitentiary 10 days before Christmas after serving six months of a two-year sentence imposed on him last April.
Jo-anne Campbell (not her real name) hopes she never hears the name Pierre Montpellier again.
Campbell, 62, lost almost $30,000 when she invested her life savings in 1997.
She knew Montpellier ?very well...I trusted him like a son.? She blames herself for what happened.
?Some people got very angry and I understand why and I lost a lot of money that I could ill afford to lose...but my feelings almost from the beginning is I made a choice and a very bad one and I have to be willing to live with the consequences.
?He?s probably a pathological liar, but a good one because he sure fooled a lot of us,? she said. ?
Many other victims believe Montpellier?s jail sentence, which amounted to just over three years behind bars, was not sufficient, but Campbell doesn?t feel that way.
?Spending three years in jail, when you?ve never spent a day in jail before, that had to have been a hellish experience,? she said. ?Other people wanted more, but I?m not made that way.
Getting back half of the money she invested is gratifying in that many victims felt they would never see a penny returned, said Campbell.
?I?m not going to forget him and I don?t forgive him, but what?s the point in belabouring what?s gone on,? she said.
For his hard work, Arseneau was well-compensated, receiving in excess of $1 million from the $4.3 million he obtained, said Campbell.
?He is who he is and he?s done what he?s done...I have to get on with my life and that?s what I?m doing.?
Susan Jones (again not her real name), along with her husband, invested more than $61,000 with Montpellier in June of 1997.
She also confirms that once the legal fees were paid, she and her husband got a cheque back for just under 50 percent of their investment several weeks ago.
She also blames herself for being duped by a smooth talker with no conscience.
?You have to take responsibility for your own decisions in life and accept the fact that whenever you invest money, there?s a chance you might lose that money,? she said. ?We?re obviously extremely disappointed in Pierre and what he did in lying to so many good people. I asked him some very pointed questions and he still convinced me he was the real deal.?
While other victims don?t feel the same way, she also feels a three-year jail sentence was satisfactory.
?Any time you send someone to jail for even one day, it?s got to be a nightmare,? she said.
?He spent most of his time in the local jail and I know there?s not a lot to do there and not a lot of programs, so he did pay a severe price although a lot of people would have liked to see him get more.
?He has to live with what he did and I don?t think life is going to be easy for him in the future.?
Unlike many others, the financial losses didn?t devastate her family, but it taught them a valuable lesson about doing their homework before investing money and especially in trusting people, she said.
A retired health care worker, 65, who lost $53,000 to Montpellier in early 1998, said she decided early on to continue leading a quality life with the hope one day she?d get some of the money back.
?When I knew I?d lost the money, I tried to put it to the back of my mind and said it was only money and it?s certainly not the most important thing in
life,? she said.