United States Asks Canada To Extradite Nicholas Smirnow, Alleged Head Of ‘Pathway To Prosperity’ Ponzi Scheme
UPDATED 7:41 P.M. EDT U.S.A. If the office of U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton of the Southern District of Illinois gets its way, Canada will turn over accused international Ponzi schemer Nicholas Smirnow to the United States.
Smirnow, whom INTERPOL says in a wanted notice is 57, was arrested at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport a little more than three months ago.
An “extradition request has been submitted to the government of Canada for the extradition of SMIRNOW to the United States,” according to a March 20 update to the Smirnow victims’ site maintained by Wigginton’s office.
Ontario Provincial Police notified Wigginton’s office of the Smirnow arrest in December, according to the victims’ site. U.S. federal prosecutors and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service accused Smirnow in 2010 of operating “Pathway To Prosperity,” a $70 million Ponzi-board swindle that flowed across six continents into 120 countries and affected tens of thousands of participants.
P2P, as the scheme was known in shorthand, allegedly created victims in 48 of the 50 U.S. states and in 18 of the 38 counties that comprise the Southern District of Illinois. The concentration in the district may suggest a major P2P promoter was operating in the area.
Many HYIP schemes offer promoters commissions to round up participants. Prosecutors have described the interest rates offered by P2P as absurd.
U.S. prosecutors said this in 2010 (italics added):
According to the complaint, investors were offered their choice of seven, fifteen, thirty, and sixty day “plans.” At the daily interest rates promised by SMIRNOW, a seven day plan supposedly produced an annual return of 546% and a sixty day plan supposedly was returning an annual return of 720%. Fifteen and thirty day plans supposedly returned equally spectacular rates of return. If an investor reinvested both his original investment and the supposed earnings that Pathway to Prosperity promised on a seven day program, for instance, at the daily interest rate quoted by SMIRNOW, the annual return would have been approximately 17,000%.
Smirnow initially slipped out of Canada to the Philippines, where he ended up in jail, according to court filings. Although the United States sought to extradite him from the Philippines nearly five years ago, the process reportedly was canceled, resulting in Smirnow eventually heading back to Canada.
U.S. filings from 2010 identified him as a resident of Baysville, Ontario. Precisely why the earlier process was canceled is unclear.
What is clear is that the United States has now asked Canada to turn him over.