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Fraudster Alena Pastuch denied bid for bail

Sentenced to seven years in prison for a $5.5-million investor fraud, former Regina businesswoman Alena Marie Pastuch will remain behind bars while she awaits the outcome of an appeal after a judge denied her bail — but kept the door open to a future application.In her written decision released Thursday, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Justice Lian Schwann noted that for Pastuch to get bail post-conviction and sentencing, she must show her appeal is not frivolous, that she would surrender herself into custody under terms of a release order, and her detention is not necessary in the public interest.Schwann said Pastuch’s application at this point is simply premature, as the judge needs more information on which to assess the strength of her grounds of appeal and the public interest. Schwann said the transcript of the protracted trial — which opened in October and continued through to March — has not yet been prepared, and is a necessary tool to make that assessment.Although dismissing Pastuch’s bid for bail at this time, Schwann left the door open for her to re-apply once the transcript is available.Pastuch, 54, was sentenced on Aug. 16 after Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Richard Elson found her guilty of fraud, theft and money laundering. The latter two charges were stayed, since they encompassed the same evidence. Between 2007 and 2009, Pastuch took in $5,523,507 from about 80 investors who believed their savings would grow in the development and sale of anti-fraud and child protection technology. Instead, Elson found the money was largely spent supporting Pastuch’s lavish lifestyle.Pastuch promptly appealed her conviction, primarily contending she did not get a fair trial and there had been a miscarriage of justice, in part because her complex PTSD condition and the stress of the trial meant she couldn’t effectively cross-examine witnesses. Pastuch, who represented herself without a lawyer, opted to call no evidence at the trial or take the witness stand.During her bail hearing last week, Pastuch argued she wasn’t a flight risk, never breached her release conditions for the five years she was on bail prior to her conviction, and has been told she’s a good candidate for an early release from prison, so doesn’t pose a public threat.Schwann’s ruling also notes Pastuch hopes to get a court-appointed lawyer for her appeal. She initially had court-appointed counsel for her trial, but was turned down the third time after parting company with the first two appointments.In addition to the prison time, Elson also ordered Pastuch to pay $5,523,507 in victim restitution. Any amount repaid will be deducted from a $5.5-million fine, reflecting the amount defrauded. Elson gave her 12 years to pay the fine after her release, and if she fails to pay up, is subject to a further five-year prison sentence.Elson found Pastuch spent most of the investors’ money on gambling, staying in expensive hotels in Vegas, Banff and Los Angeles, travelling, buying high-end clothing, and financing a house and car. She used investor funds to promote a rock band, including their trip to Disneyland, and to buy collectibles for her resale business. Only $137,097 has ever been recovered, and an expert, by a generous accounting, estimated only $455,000 could be considered business expenses.bpacholik@postmedia.com read more

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