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Missing Victoria man sent contrite letter to clients

Before he disappeared last week, Harold Backer wrote a letter to several of his investment clients expressing deep remorse for decisions that cost them money.
Harold Backer has turned himself in to Victoria police

Before he disappeared last week, Harold Backer wrote a letter to several of his investment clients expressing deep remorse for decisions that cost them money.

The Times Colonist has obtained a copy of the letter in which the Victoria mutual fund dealer takes responsibility for financial losses they have experienced.

In the letter, Backer said he started his own firm — Financial Backer Corp. — in 1996. He wrote that market-based funds he sold lost as much as 45 per cent of their market value during the dot-com crash in 1999-2000.

Instead of telling clients about the losses, Backer wrote that he hoped to make the money back by forgoing future fees until the losses were covered.

In the letter, Backer said he maintained the investment values at their 1999 levels and “grew them on paper at a general market rate of return.”

However, he wrote, he could not keep up to the pace of growth required.

“I am aware that I am running a pyramid investment,” he wrote.

“I will not keep doing it.”

Backer wrote that there is no way that he could pay back the losses to his clients and that he was “truly sorry for the effects of my poor decisions.”

“My investors have been my friends and I have done a terrible thing to my friends. My choice at this point is to do anything in my power to cover the investment losses I have created. If admitting to fraud would help restore the losses, I would accept the criminal penalty,” he wrote.

Backer is registered as an active mutual fund dealer with Investia Financial in B.C. and Ontario. He has been with the company since June 2005.

In a statement Tuesday, Investia said it “has no reason to believe that there has been any wrongdoing on the part of the representative.

“The company takes this situation very seriously and is conducting a full investigation into Mr. Backer's professional activities with Investia.”

Investia said it has never received a client complaint about Backer’s professional activities.

Victoria police would not comment on the letter.

“We have received a lot of information and tips about Mr. Backer and we are looking into all those things,” said Victoria police spokesman Const. Matt Rutherford.

“Like any missing persons investigation, we look at all aspects of their life, whether that be financial, work-related, family dynamics. We look at everything to get a broad spectrum picture.”

Rutherford noted that there’s no way of saying why Backer disappeared. “It’s way too early to say. We have received lots of information and we are looking at everything involved.”

Backer, 52, has been missing since Nov. 3 after he failed to return home. Before leaving his house, the avid cyclist told his wife he was going for a bike ride, likely on the Galloping Goose trail.

Police believe he is in Washington state.

A man matching Backer’s description was seen boarding the Coho car ferry to Port Angeles on Nov. 3.

Victoria police are working with Port Angeles police, Washington State Patrol and Seattle police to spread the word about Backer. Friends have travelled to Washington state to look for him.

Some of Backer’s clients, who asked to remain anonymous, have told the Times Colonist it looks as though they have lost a substantial amount of money due to his actions.

How many clients are affected is unknown.

Backer is a three-time Olympic rower, competing in 1984, 1988 and 1992. He is white, standing six-foot-three with a medium build. His eyes are green and he has greying hair.

It is believed he was wearing a red cycling jersey, black riding pants and perhaps carrying a black backpack. He may be riding a black Cannondale road bike.

If anyone sees Backer, police are asking that they call 911; if anyone has information on his whereabouts, they are asked to call 250-995-7654.

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