Former Abbotsford woman must repay victims of loan scheme

Doris Nelson is serving a nine-year prison sentence in the U.S. for fraud.

The former Fraser Valley woman behind a massive scheme that bilked investors out of millions of dollars will owe $44.8 million to her victims when she is released from U.S. prison.

A U.S. federal judge issued the order against Doris Nelson in February, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported.

Nelson is serving a nine-year prison sentence for more than 100 counts of mail and wire fraud. She pleaded guilty to the charges last year.

Nelson’s crimes all stemmed from her operation of the Little Loan Shoppe, a payday loan business that grew from its roots in Abbotsford to locations around the Lower Mainland, in Washington, and eventually online.

Nelson opened her first Little Loan Shoppe on South Fraser Way in Abbotsford in 1997 and by 1999 was collecting money from investors to open stores in Maple Ridge and Chilliwack. A Little Loan Shoppe was located on First Avenue in Mission starting in 1997, according to District of Mission business licence records, although that particular location isn’t mentioned in American court filings. Nelson moved to the United States with her new husband in 2001.

The Little Loan Shoppes closed in the early 2000s, but by then Nelson had begun taking telephone loan applications from Canadians. In 2006, she expanded the business to the internet.

In 1999, though, the business had became what several judges have termed a Ponzi scheme, as Nelson began using money from new and existing investors to pay other investors returns as high as 75 per cent, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The scheme fell apart in 2008 and the next year the Little Loan Shoppe declared bankruptcy.

Nelson pleaded guilty last April. A judge later denied her request to retract her pleas. The Spokesman-Review reported that Nelson turned down a plea agreement that would have resulted in a 10-year jail sentence. When she returned to prosecutors months later, the proposed deal was raised to 30 years.

Lawyers are now trying to recoup money from those investors who made a profit from their investments into the Little Loan Shoppe in order to repay some of those who lost funds.