Arlan Galbraith, owner of bankrupt Pigeon King International, leaves a creditor's meeting in Kitchener in 2008.
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Waterloo Region Record
- More than five years after his
pigeon-breeding empire came crashing down, Arlan Galbraith
is finally scheduled to go on trial Monday for an alleged $20-million fraud.
A salesperson known for his
folksy charm, Galbraith
promoted Pigeon King International
as the saviour of the family farm by promising healthy returns for raising young birds.
But with concerns already swirling that the Waterloo-based business was more akin to a Ponzi scheme, it went bankrupt in the summer of 2008.
Left in the lurch were hundreds of farmers across North America - largely from Amish and Mennonite communities - who had invested in breeding pairs with guaranteed prices for their offspring.
blamed jealous "fear mongers" for smearing him, questioning his
motives and drying up new investment needed to expand into squab production.
Waterloo Regional Police initially said it appeared the costly collapse was nothing more than "an investment that's gone bad."
But after a flood of complaints from farmers and a 2 1/2-year investigation, Galbraith
was charged in late 2010 with fraud and violations of the Bankruptcy Act.
has steadfastly maintained his
innocence ever since, representing himself in the complicated case during a preliminary hearing in Kitchener last year.
"I'm no criminal," he
said in an interview outside court.
"The worst thing I ever had in my life was a speeding ticket.
I'm a model citizen, for God's sake."
was ordered to stand trial by the hearing judge.
Founder and sole owner of Pigeon King, Galbraith recruited farmers to buy pairs of breeding birds for up to $500.
In return, he
agreed to buy back the offspring at fixed prices for the duration of contracts that generally ran for five to 10 years.
claimed to be building up breeding stock as he
developed plans to establish processing plants to turn out pigeon meat, or squab, for restaurants and dinner tables.
The essence of the fraud allegations is that he
had no real market for so many birds and ran a doomed scheme that relied on more and more investors to pay existing ones.
Still not represented by a lawyer, Galbraith chose to fight the case before a jury of peers in Superior Court in Kitchener.
•2001 - Arlan Galbraith
pigeon-breeding business, marketing it for the first several years as a supplier of birds for hobbyists interested in them for sport.
•2005 - Local police interview Galbraith
after concerns are raised about Pigeon King International
, but find it to be a sincere venture and take no action.
•2008 - As several U.S. states raise concerns about a possible Ponzi scheme, Galbraith
insists the potential is still enormous: "We're scratching the surface of a giant iceberg."
•December 2010 - After turning himself in to police, Galbraith
is charged with defrauding hundreds of investors between 2004 and 2008.
Total losses are estimated at $20 million.
•November 2012 - Galbraith
ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing.
"Everybody would have been paid," he
insists in an interview proclaiming his
•November 4, 2013 - Six- to eight-week jury trial scheduled to begin as Galbraith
represents himself in Superior Court in Kitchener.