DIY Investing

Next Level representative on trial in Kingston

The trial of Jordan McGregor continued Wednesday afternoon at the Ontario Court of Justice with the testimony of a local business owner who claims to have lost about $95,000 at the hands of Next Level Investments.

McGregor has been charged with possession of proceeds of crime in connection to the massive fraud investigation by Kingston Police and Ontario Provincial Police into Next Level, also known as Next Level Capital Group.

Chris Uitvlugt, who used to identify on Facebook as Next Level’s CEO, was charged by police with fraud over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime and conspiracy. The charges have not been proven in court. Uitvlugt will be appearing in Superior Court, but a date for trial has yet to be set.

Kenneth McGuire, once described as the “the face and voice” of the company, was placed on two years probation after he pleaded guilty to possession of proceeds of crime in March 2017.

At McGuire’s sentencing, Crown prosecutor Alex Hrybinsky stated that investigators have found that investors paid $4.8 million into Next Level and $3.1 million was paid out. However, he told Justice Allan Letourneau that there was little evidence of actual trading by Next Level.

Cory Macdonald, owner of a local supplements store and proprietor of 60 real estate units across the city, testified in front of Justice Larry O’Brien on Wednesday that he invested $95,000 in three instalments over six months. The last investment of $35,000 was in January 2017.

Crown prosecutor Alex Hrybinsky asked Macdonald how he thought the investments went.

“I ended up here, so not very well,” Macdonald said. “I never made anything and lost $95,000.”

Macdonald said he was introduced to Uitvlugt by McGregor. When questioned by Leo Adler, McGregor’s lawyer, the former Correctional Service Canada officer of 12 years told the court that Chris Uitvlugt was very convincing. Macdonald agreed with Adler when he suggested that Macdonald initially thought Uitvlugt was “a nice guy” and a “smart businessman.”

“He was a good salesman,” Macdonald testified.

Macdonald said Uitvlugt told him that in a year they could either double his money in six months or lose it all. Macdonald was so convinced that Uitvlugt and Next Level Investments were legitimate that he told his mother and his friends, many of whom are local police officers and correctional officers, about it. Macdonald told his friends that he’d guarantee their investments.

He testified that he didn’t receive a percentage or kickbacks from Next Level. He said he “thought I was helping people.”

“We were all stupid enough to believe whatever Chris told us,” Macdonald said.

On the morning that the Next Level Investments offices at 1309 Princess St. were raided by police on March 14, 2018, Macdonald said he woke up to “thousands” of text messages from his friends who had also invested with Next Level.

Macdonald met with McGregor and Louis Tavakoli at McGregor’s home the same day, though when questioned by Adler, Macdonald wasn’t sure if Tavakoli was present. A local real estate agent, Tavakoli also testified on Wednesday.

Macdonald recalled that on the table of the room they were in was a package containing paperwork and cash. Uitvlugt, who was in police custody, had instructed that the package should go to his partner, Kirstie Saxton-Robinson, Macdonald said. He added that Uitvlugt told them that the police had been called by accident, that it was all a misunderstanding with his licensing.

Macdonald said the three men didn’t know what to do or whom to trust, and they decided they couldn’t trust Saxton-Robinson.

The next day, Saxton-Robinson started to call Macdonald and McGregor, demanding the cash, Macdonald said. He agreed with Adler when he described Saxton-Robinson’s constant calls as harassment. Macdonald alleged in his testimony that Saxton-Robinson tried to blackmail him, McGregor and Tavakoli. He claims she said that she’d go to the police and say that they were behind Next Level’s dealings.

In a 20-second phone call, McGregor and Macdonald agreed to give Saxton-Robinson the cash, he testified.

“I didn’t think anyone would believe us over a crying girl,” Macdonald said.

Macdonald would be the one to hand it over as McGregor was on his way over to the police station to turn himself in. He told the court that he picked up the package from Tavakoli’s house and went to a Loblaw’s parking lot. He told Saxton-Robinson that he would park his SUV, leave it unlocked and walk away, he testified. If the package was still in the vehicle, he’d hand it over to police. He told the court the package was gone when he returned.

Macdonald testified that when he went to the police, he, too, was charged with fraud, but the charge was later dropped by the Crown.

McGregor’s trial continues next week.

— With files from Sue Yanagisawa

Twitter: @StephattheWhig