A 61-year-old Canadian man has taken his own life after losing over 200,000 Canadian dollars (US$152,000) to an Israeli-run binary options firm, a Canadian law-enforcement official told The Times of Israel.
On December 21, 2016, Frederick Felix Turbide of Edmonton, Alberta, shot himself in the chest after losing his savings and additional money he borrowed, totaling over C$300,000 (US$228,000), to several binary options trading websites. He lost some two-thirds of this sum on the 23Traders.com platform, which operates from Israel.
The largely fraudulent binary options industry has flourished in Israel for the past nine years, scamming hundreds of thousands of victims worldwide out of billions of dollars with little to no intervention from Israeli law enforcement. Fraudulent binary options firms lure their victims into making what they are duped into believing will be profitable short-term investments, encouraging them to “invest” more and more money. But by employing a variety of ruses, the firms ensure that in the overwhelming majority of cases their clients wind up losing all or almost all of their money. Victims frequently lose tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Turbide had been urged by his broker at 23Traders, who went by the name of “Julian Wellington,” to gradually invest his entire life savings as well as credit for his home and business into binary options, with reassurances that he would make significant revenue.
“G-OD is with us,” the purported Julian Wellington messaged him on Skype on December 12, 2016. “I’m taking you to 250k :) When you expand your enterprise, send me a warm post card,” he texted with a handshake emoji.
Wellington told Turbide he was calling from the UK, or Toronto, Turbide’s family believes, as Turbide once referred to him playfully as “my UK boss,” and the phone number he used had a Toronto area code.
Initially Turbide was told he was making profits, and encouraged to put in more and more money.
When Turbide told Wellington he had persuaded his wife to let him use $20,000 in credit from equity on their home, the broker congratulated him. “You are the master of charisma arts!” he wrote on December 12.
Turbide told him that he would be at the end of his rope financially after putting in the last $20,000, but Julian reassured him the same day. “I’m with you, not 100%..,1000% ! and beyond. Plain English = I got you brother. I know how bad you want to amass wealth and cover every expenses.”
Lengthy transcripts of their Skype exchanges, made available by Turbide’s grieving family to The Times of Israel, show that “Julian Wellington” and Turbide began communicating on December 6, 2016. The family believe Turbide had been trading with the company for several months before “Wellington” became his broker.
By December 19, there were signs of trouble. Turbide complained about not being able to get into his account. The next day, December 20, the broker wrote, “Tragic news, disaster in the heart of the EURO, Germany Berlin, We’ve been shorting EUR/USD all day long.”
The following day, December 21, Wellington called Turbide at 8:47 a.m. The conversation lasted over an hour. Apparently Julian informed Turbide in that call that he had “lost” most or all of his money: Shortly after they got off the phone, Turbide texted, “I am at your mercy right now Julian. Never in my life have I undergone such stress as this before. Oh my God, Julian tell me this is not true.”
Wellington replied, “Everything will be ok, dear Fred. Faith will lead us to victory. I want to apply the insurance bonus, and recover losses.”
But Turbide appeared to no longer believe him. At 11:58 a.m. he sent Wellington a copy of a suicide note he planned to leave for his wife, in which he told his family he loved them and blamed 23Traders for pushing him to suicide. “Here is letter that will be on my desk at the end of the day,” Turbide wrote to Wellington.
At 12:02 p.m., Wellington attempted to call. Turbide said he could not answer because his wife was at home. Turbide then asked repeatedly on Skype whether Wellington would return his money, with no response from the broker. At 3:52 p.m., Turbide sent Wellington a final plea:
“I’ve lost my house, my retirement money and my business, damn you. It is now 3:52 PM my time. I am going to take a shower then go to my garage to finish myself off. I am giving you one hour to call me with positive results to put back the money I lost.”
Turbide’s wife of 21 years, Maria Chaves-Turbide, arrived home later that day, followed by her four children, to find him dead in the garage of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“I believe when he realized he had been betrayed by the binary options broker, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing what he had built for the future of our family,” Turbide’s son, Tomas Ferreira, told The Times of Israel.
“He most certainly felt a combination of betrayal, despair, and shame.”
Canadian fraud investigator Jason Roy of the Manitoba Securities Commission, who heads Canada’s binary options task force, told The Times of Israel several months ago that “binary options fraud appears to be the current greatest threat to Canadian investors.”
Alison Trollope, director of communications for the Alberta Securities Commission, said that “the ASC and our colleagues in the Canadian Securities Administrators are aware of multiple websites promoting binary options trading platforms that are soliciting Canadians. Unfortunately, not only are these sites not registered to sell securities in Canada, but generally they are fraudulent. We have and will continue to advise Canadian investors to avoid investing in such schemes, which are often located offshore.”
A third Canadian law enforcement official who spoke to Turbide’s family, and who alerted The Times of Israel to his suicide, said 23Traders somehow managed to charge more money to Turbide’s credit card even after his death and even after his family had put a hold on the card.
23Traders.com is not licensed to operate in Canada, the regulators said, and was violating the law by transacting with Frederick Turbide.
According to documents seen by The Times of Israel, and sources with knowledge of the company, 23Traders.com operates from a call center in Israel that goes by the name of “Market Giants Ltd,” whose company address is listed in Israel’s corporate registry as 9 Barkat Street, Petah Tikva.
According to Israel’s corporate registry, Market Giant’s director is Eran Schindler, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as the founder and owner of “Schindler CFO Financial Services.” Also according to Israel’s corporate registry, Market Giants is owned by a company called “CFO Outsourcing Services Ltd,” which is owned by Eran Schindler together with a third company called I-TLD Management Ltd. According to the Israeli corporate registry, I-TLD Management Ltd is owned by Tal Dayagi, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as a partner in the same Schindler CFO Financial Services.
In addition, a group of Israeli startup angel investors known as The Founders Group claims in its promotional material that it provided $1.85 million in seed funding for 23Traders. In a 2016 Founders Group prospectus, 23Traders’ founder is named as Giora Tal, who is described as having “vast experience in setting up and operating businesses in the gaming industry.” A January 2010 article in The Gibraltar Magazine describes Tal as working for the Gibraltar-based Mansion Group of online casinos. Two partners in the Founders Group, Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie, are known for developing spyware that can hack into Apple products, which was subsequently reportedly used by foreign governments to attempt to crack down on journalists and dissidents.
‘I am so sorry’
In the suicide note he left behind, Turbide expressed love for his family and asked them to bring 23Traders to justice.
“Maria, my love,” Turbide wrote. “I am so, so sorry. I am in the garage dead. Do not go there just call the police… Julian, Thomas and David at 23Traders have pushed me to my death.”
Turbide’s family members described him as above all a kind and principled man. He met Maria when she was 40 and was raising four kids on her own following a divorce. Fred adopted Maria’s children as his own and together they spent 21 years building the family business, which sells promotional products for labor unions.
Tomas described his father as a large-hearted man who provided jobs to the homeless and frequently adopted stray animals.
Toronto Sun columnist Marty Forbes, in an article headlined “My 2016 list of awesome people” that was published a week before Turbide’s death, singled out Turbide as one of the finest people he knew.
“Maria and Fred Turbide have become like parents to a single mother friend of mine and her son,” noted Forbes’s article. The single mother helped by the Turbides was quoted as saying: “They offer their support by picking up groceries, having us over for dinner, shovelling my walks, mowing the lawn and cleaning the leaves. Frederick even regularly scoops the dog poo to help keep my yard clean.”
Tomas said his father probably began trading binary options because he wanted to retire and spend more time with his family.
“He talked about how tired he was — I have never seen someone work so much in my life — and how excited he was to officially be retiring this year. He’d already planned trips with mom and talked about things we were all going to do together.”
‘I want to see these people shut down’
The Times of Israel has been exposing Israel’s largely fraudulent binary options industry in a series of articles since March 2016, beginning with an article entitled “The Wolves of Tel Aviv,” and has estimated that the industry here numbers over 100 companies, most of which are fraudulent and employ a variety of ruses to steal their clients’ money. Thousands of Israelis work in the field, which is estimated to have fleeced billions of dollars from victims all over the world in the past decade.
In direct response to The Times of Israel’s reporting, the Prime Minister’s Office in October condemned the industry’s “unscrupulous practices” and called for the entire industry to be outlawed worldwide.
Responding to The Times of Israel’s reporting, the Knesset’s State Control Committee held a hearing on January 2 on the government’s failure to shut down binary options fraud. The committee chair, MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid), demanded that the police begin enforcement activity against fraudulent binary options firms in the next month and that the Israel Securities Authority urgently advance legislation to shut down the entire industry. The police ignored Elharar’s request to appear at the hearing. A follow-up hearing will take place in February, and police have been ordered to attend.
Turbide’s widow, Maria Chaves-Turbide, said she wanted to come forward with the family’s painful story to prevent the same thing from happening to others.
“My husband was a kind, gentle man,” she said.
“Before I met him I had gone back to my homeland of Portugal and I was feeling lonely. I got down on my knees and I asked God to give me someone. He could be short, fat, bald and ugly, if he was kind-hearted that’s all I wanted, and that’s what I got, the kindest, most gentle man.”
Asked why she wanted the story reported, she replied, “I want to see these people shut down. I want this scam closed and I want the world to know that they were responsible for taking the love of my life away from me.”
The Israel Securities Authority declined to comment on the case and Turbide’s suicide.
The Founders Group did not respond to a request for comment as of this writing.
The Times of Israel invited 23Traders to respond to the details in this article including Fred Turbide’s suicide, its operations, broker “Julian Wellington,” and the Market Giants call center. Its response, in an email from “George Hill,” read in full as follows:
“1. The company does not disclose any information regarding its clients to any other entity except the client himself or a legally authorized guardian. 2. Your claims are absolutely false. Kind Regards, 23Traders Customer Support.”