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Crown seeks jail for North Vancouver day trader who fleeced friends

More than $1.6 million was lost in bad trades
A North Vancouver man will soon be sentenced for stealing more than $1 million from his friend and other investors. | North Shore News files

The Crown is seeking a four-year prison term for a North Vancouver man who stole more than $1.6 million from investors and lost it day trading high-risk stocks.

Ward Derek Jensen, 54, was originally charged with nine counts of fraud and four counts of forgery in 2022, but pleaded guilty to one count of theft over $5,000 in January.

According to an agreed statement of facts read out in North Vancouver Provincial Court at his sentencing hearing on Friday, Jensen began day trading options using a “practice account.” In 2007, his best friend gave Jensen $20,000 to invest on his behalf with a Chicago-based private investment fund, administered through his B.C. company, Kassel Enterprises. After seeing purported growth in his investments, the victim then recruited friends and family.

Nine victims contributed between $19,000 and $367,000. At the time, neither Jensen nor his company were registered to trade securities as required by B.C.’s Securities Act.

Despite losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on bad trades and buying stakes in unlisted companies, Jensen produced fake monthly statements to show their financial portfolio growing consistently month over month.

When one of the victims sought the return of her money, Jensen provided her with a forged letter from US Securities and Exchange Commission claiming the funds were temporarily frozen.

By 2017, the ruse was over and Jensen told the friend he’d originally brought in as an investor that the money was all gone.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, one of those duped by Jensen said the crime resulted in far more than him losing an investment. The experience left him severely depressed and in poverty, surviving on a $3 per day food budget which led to serious problems in his health.

“Sadly, my mother’s grave remains unmarked years after her death due to insufficient funds to update the marker,” he said.

Other victim impact statements delivered to the court spoke of how Jensen’s actions left them with financial insecurity, strained relationships, and feelings of shame, betrayal and stress.

Crown prosecutor Peter Campbell said the court should hand down a sentence that sends a message to others who may find themselves facing a similar dilemma as Jensen.

“It is precisely this kind of person who can commit this type of offence. It’s the person who otherwise seems to be a good character, has a good reputation in the community. And this type of person is generally deterred by the sentencing imposed for this type of offence. That is a pressing need,” he said.

Jensen’s defence lawyer Andrew Nelson, however, argued his client should receive a conditional sentence – one that will keep him out of jail and still earning money for his family. Today, Jensen works as a commercial trucker whose family lives “hand-to-mouth” and will suffer greatly if he cannot work, Nelson argued. After a debilitating car crash soon after the stock scheme fell apart, Jensen spent about five years unable to work.

Nelson also spoke of Jensen’s otherwise good character and desire to help others.

“He thought, incorrectly, that he could help other people make money on the stock market. He was dishonest about the risks of what he was doing … but his motivation was to enrich others, not just himself, and in the end, his personal profit was nothing from this because he lost everything as well,” he said.

Jensen will be sentenced later this summer. Before the hearing was adjourned, he was given the opportunity to speak for himself, which he used to apologize to his victims.

“You all trusted me and I failed you. I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed,” he said. “When things took an unexpected turn, I acted under a blanket of stress and fear and I made terrible choices, naively and desperately trying to recover the losses with the remaining funds. It was stupid and wrong and I greatly regret my decisions and wish, every day, I had made better ones. I’m so very sorry.”