Eda Marie Agueci climbed her way from a childhood in a rough end of Toronto to a post at a blue-chip Bay Street firm that allowed her to mingle with Corporate Canada’s elite.
But now Ms. Agueci, who won high praise for her friendliness and charm over two decades as a high-level administrative assistant, is facing allegations that she orchestrated an insider trading ring that included family members and powerful friends such as Dennis Wing, co-founder of First Marathon Securities. Also caught up in the scandal is mining legend Ian Telfer, who has been accused by the Ontario Securities Commission of helping Ms. Agueci hide some of her trades.
Mr. Telfer has denied the allegations, as have the others, and none of the OSC’s allegations have been proven in court. “She’s devastated,” said Joanna Andros, a long-time friend of Ms. Agueci’s. “She’s the sweetest, nicest person you could meet.”
Ms. Agueci, who has been suspended from her job at GMP Securities, declined comment. But records searches and interviews with former colleagues portray a woman well-liked by co-workers, coping with debt and searching for self-improvement.
Born in 1963, Ms. Agueci told friends she grew up in Scarborough and didn’t attend college. She found her way into the investment world in the early 1990s and soon became an executive assistant at First Marathon, an independent securities firm that financed startup companies, racked up big profits on its trading desks and was known for throwing wild parties after hours.
Many people interviewed for this story said that while Ms. Agueci wasn’t regarded as the most proficient administrator, she was very popular among employees and clients. One of her former managers said her phone rang constantly with enquiries from friends and associates about a variety of social events.
On one occasion she was so overwhelmed preparing a document for a pending financing that the manager had to step in to answer her phone. “While she typed I took her calls,” said the manager, who declined to be identified.
At First Marathon she worked as an assistant to co-founder Rick Hallisey. She also met Mr. Wing at the firm as well as Kimberley Stephany, who has also been named in the OSC allegations. Mr. Wing also knows Mr. Telfer well, having served on the board of Vengold Inc., which Mr. Telfer headed as CEO.
Ms. Agueci eventually moved on to GMP Securities LP and became executive assistant to the firm’s chairman, Eugene McBurney, who also ran the mining group. Once at GMP she ventured out from her strictly administrative duties and participated in a handful of private placements in some junior mining companies.
The OSC alleges that by 2007, Ms. Agueci was passing along tips about pending GMP mining deals to a network of family and friends. She also allegedly impersonated her mother in order to execute trades through her mother’s brokerage account. The OSC alleges Ms. Agueci pocketed nearly $1-million from the trades and payments from Mr. Wing.
Property records show that in 2010 Ms. Agueci had bought a $605,000 condo in downtown Toronto. She took out a $221,000 mortgage, had it discharged by a $660,000 mortgage and then took out a $180,000 mortgage last year that had a rate of 10 per cent.
Friends say that away from work, Ms. Agueci was a lively friend fascinated with improving herself. She took several “Courageous Living” courses run by Ms. Andros which focus on helping women empower themselves. Ms. Andros said Ms. Agueci frequently brought several friends along.
“Thanks so much for the incredible day you put on ... we got so much out of it!,” Ms. Agueci says on a testimonial on the company’s website. “Thank you, Thank you! It was so worthwhile – my friend can’t stop talking about what she got out of it.”
Toronto media personality and event planner Susanne Seelig-Mense said she socialized with Ms. Agueci and described her as “a lovely girl.” “We’d go to some of the bars and stuff,” Ms. Seelig-Mense said. “We never really spoke about [her business]but she seemed to know everybody.”
With files from reporter Boyd Erman
Vancouver’s Ian Telfer is the chairman of Goldcorp Inc., one of the world’s largest mining companies, and Uranium One Inc., Canada’s second-largest uranium producer. The OSC says Mr. Telfer did not participate in the illegal insider trading scheme but alleges he “facilitated” conduct by others, including “disguising” who owned securities and “circumventing” the monitoring of trades by the employer of his long-time friend Eda Marie Agueci.
Eda Marie Agueci
The OSC alleges that Ms. Agueci was “the central figure” in the scheme, responsible for tipping other members with inside information on impending corporate deals in return for payment, as well as trading herself. She has been suspended from her job as executive assistant to the chairman of GMP Securities LP, Eugene McBurney.
A founding partner of First Marathon Securities Inc., Mr. Wing is the president and CEO of a Toronto investment dealer called Fort House Inc., and a fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute. The OSC alleges that Mr. Wing made trades based on tips from Ms. Agueci, and gave her “direct and indirect payments totalling $25,000.” The OSC alleges he advised Ms. Agueci to open a bank account in England, and to use her “mother’s address ... not your own.” The OSC alleges that he directed trades on behalf of Pollen Services Ltd., a British Virgin Islands company that maintained an account in Switzerland and held assets for Mr. Wing’s offshore family trust, the Honey Trust. Mr. Wing declined to comment.
Mr. Gornitzki is a well-known figure in Canada’s junior stock market. Believed to be in his 70s, he was a long-time promoter of startup mining companies and more recently branched out to small insurance and technology companies, some of which were financed by GMP. Mr. Gornitzki often used GMP’s Toronto offices, the OSC says. The OSC alleges he slipped information in 2007 about a proposed acquisition by a uranium company he was working for to Ms. Agueci, who then allegedly told family and friends to buy the stock. He could not be reached for comment.
A long-time investor in public companies and startups, he co-founded Toronto-based Research Management Group in 1977. The firm conducts market research for major corporations. Mr. Fiorillo is also a friend of Ms. Agueci’s, the OSC says. The regulator alleges that he purchased shares based on insider tips. He declined to comment. In 2009, a judge awarded Mr. Fiorillo and other plaintiffs $655,000 in damages from former Disney executive Paul Alofs, the president and CEO of Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, after they sued him for misleading them over an investment in the ill-fated Canadian expansion of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.
Giuseppe (Joseph) Fiorini
Mr. Fiorini, of Thornhill, Ont., was a vice-president and director of corporate finance with Desjardins Securities. The firm announced his departure in a management shakeup in 2008, but did not say why he left. The OSC says he was friends with Ms. Agueci, and alleges he participated in trades based on insider tips. He could not be reached for comment.
Santo (Tino) Iacono, John Serpa
Mr. Iacono, Ms. Agueci’s brother-in-law, was a partner in a Mississauga food services distribution company, SIR Investments Inc., with his friend, Mr. Serpa. The OSC alleges Mr. Iacono assisted Ms. Agueci’s move to trade in an account kept secret from her employer, purchased shares based on insider tips from her, and passed those tips to Mr. Serpa. Mr. Iacono could not be reached for comment. Reached at his Toronto home, Mr. Serpa declined comment.
Ms. Stephany was a trading assistant at Fort House, Mr. Wing’s company, and later at Brant Securities Ltd. She allegedly traded on tips from Ms. Agueci, a “close friend.” The OSC alleges the pair used “code names” when discussing trades. She also allegedly used a tip to recommend shares to a client. She could not be reached for comment.
Josephine (Josie) Raponi
The OSC alleges that Ms. Raponi, a Toronto schoolteacher and Ms. Agueci’s cousin, used Ms. Agueci’s tips in trades. Ms. Raponi could not be reached for comment.
Jeff Gray, Jacquie McNish, Janet McFarland, Tim Kiladze, Paul Waldie