Former Norbourg president Vincent Lacroix pleads guilty to 200 criminal charges

Date: Monday, September 21, 2009
Author: Pierre St-Arnaud, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL - After spending years steadfastly proclaiming his innocence, accused trust-fund scammer Vincent Laroix shocked a courtroom on Monday by pleading guilty to 200 fraud-related charges.

The former head of Norbourg Inc. entered the pleas in Quebec Superior Court and immediately was sent to prison.

He apparently came to court prepared. He was toting a gym bag and wearing running shoes and a casual sweater.

"He knew he would be detained," said Lacroix's lawyer, Marie-Helene Giroux. "He brought his bag with him to go to jail."

Sentencing arguments will be heard Friday. Jury selection will continue for the five other co-accused in the case.

Lacroix had been accused of defrauding 9,200 investors and illegally appropriating more than $100 million.

He had already begun serving a prison term after being convicted in 2007 for securities violations, but the sentence was reduced and he was set to get full parole on Sept. 27.

When asked about her client's state of mind, Giroux said: "He is relieved because he was under a lot of the stress of going under a jury trial."

She moved to stamp out speculation Lacroix had copped a plea with prosecutors, whereby he would testify against his co-accused in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

The Crown confirmed there was no agreement on a sentence. Giroux said there has not yet been any indication the Crown would even ask Lacroix to testify in the case of the other five accused.

One victim hailed Monday's development.

Pierre Gravel lost $300,000 - $200,000 of which he managed to recover.

"It's not just the money, but also the situation it created in my family and all the dreams that I was building," Gravel said in an interview.

"It's excellent news. It will save Quebec taxpayers (money) by getting rid of a trial that could have been very, very long."

But Gravel is still suspicious of Lacroix's motives. He says a trial might have forced him to reveal more details about what he did with investors' money - and whether any of it remains hidden somewhere.

"Maybe he hopes it won't be too long for him (in prison)," Gravel said.

"Maybe he hopes he'll be able to get out and use the money he has hidden - because all the investors are convinced that money is hidden somewhere."

The charges involve fraud, forgery, conspiracy and profiting from the proceeds of crime.