Despite insisting he’s a “humanitarian” and not a criminal, the creator of Master Keys to Success lost an appeal of his convictions for fraud and money laundering.
“I can’t see a thing I would have done different,” Steven Vincent Weeres told the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal during arguments on Friday.
He later added his only intention was to help people — but his plans for a computer training program have instead cost him years behind bars and his victim’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. “I did it out of love of humanity,” he said.
The Regina judge who convicted him more than two years ago concluded he acted out of greed and an intention to help himself to other people’s money. An appeal court likewise found no reason to overturn her verdict.
“We can find no merit to the grounds of your appeal. In our view the trial judge did not commit any factual or legal error,” Justice Jacelyn Ryan-Froslie said in a decision made unanimous by Justices Ralph Ottenbreit and Maurice Herauf.
Their decision marks the end of a long legal road for Weeres, now 59, stretching back nearly two decades when he first got in trouble with securities regulators. Appearing via video link from a conference room at a B.C. prison, Weeres upon hearing the decision closed the book on his pages of notes, picked up his pens, and readied himself to return to his room at William Head Institution.
He was sentenced in October 2015 to five years in prison for fraud and money laundering — less 505 days’ credit for pre-trial custody served when he skipped bail. He must also serve two more years if he fails to pay a $200,000 fine in lieu of forfeiting the money he laundered. He’s also been ordered to pay $482,690 in victim restitution.
Weeres created an interactive, training software program called Master Keys to Success. During his seven-week-long trial, at which he represented himself without a lawyer, Saskatchewan residents testified they put thousands of dollars into the business venture, with promises of doubling their money. But Justice Janet McMurtry found Weeres misappropriated some $650,000 to $800,000 of that money, spending it on vacations, rent for a beachfront home on Vancouver Island, dining, drinking, and gambling.
Most of his appeal arguments laid blame on salespeople involved with Master Keys. “I had no idea what representations were being made,” said Weeres, who also blamed the judge for bias and not helping him sufficiently to present his case.
But Crown prosecutor Erin Bartsch said an appeal court is to look for legal error — not give Weeres a shot at re-trying his case. She also repeatedly pointed to examples in the trial transcript of McMurtry trying to help the self-represented accused.
“The appellant was accommodated every step of the way,” she said. And the appeal court agreed.
Weeres was originally granted parole seven months into his sentence, but it was revoked last year after the board found he was hatching new investment schemes while at a half-way house.
When he began his submissions Friday, Weeres argued every day he’s behind bars is costing him $26,900 because he isn’t making good on a multimillion-dollar project to manufacture log houses for Papua New Guinea and U.S. veterans.
“What I’m trying to do is right for society,” he said. “Society has been punished enough.”
Read the original story at the Regina Leader-Post.