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River Ranch for Sale

Gordon Hoekstra, Prince George Citizen, October 6, 2003

River Ranch -- which was at the heart of a controversial $13-million investment scheme that drew in hundreds of people in north and central B.C. -- is up for sale.

The asking price for the 1,600 hectare ranch, about 70 kilometres south of Vanderhoof, is $2.5 million, says Rudy Nielsen, whose companies NIHO Land and Cattle Co. Ltd. and Landquest Realty Corp. are marketing and selling the ranch.

The ranch has gone up for sale under an order by the B.C. Supreme Court, as part of a settlement to pay off mortgages on the ranch to a number of different companies in excess of $1 million, court documents show. The ranch includes five detached houses, a number of outbuildings, an unfinished 40-room hotel and fenced grazing land, The property has frontage along the Nechako River.

"We'll see if we get any bites on it," said Nielsen, who has marketed and sold ranches like the famous Douglas Ranch, the largest ranch in Canada.

The ranch is still in operation under trustee Campbell Saunders Ltd., appointed on May 30, 2002 by a B.C. Supreme Court judge to replace the original trustee Capital Financial Securities Inc.

Last June, a two-year saga involving the B.C. Securities Commission and River Ranch ended when Mark Cramer and his son, Michael Cramer, were banned from trading securities for 12 years in a settlement with the commission.

A Citizen investigation in 2001 showed that hundreds of people in central and northern B.C., many of them in Prince George and Quesnel, bought into the investment scheme to set up the River Ranch Resort lodge and cattle operation.

Under the settlement, Cramer and son Michael admitted selling clients securities when their personal interests conflicted with their duties to their clients. These conflicts arose because they were the "directing minds" behind issuers whose securities they were selling to clients, the settlement said. The pair also admitted they participated in illegal distributions of these securities and that these securities were unsuitable for clients, given the clients' risk tolerance and investment goals.

The father and son also agreed they made misrepresentation in selling securities to clients. For example, Michael Cramer claimed that some securities would become publicly traded on a stock exchange when that listing was not yet a certainty, the settlement said.

Seven IDF brokers settled with the commission in August 2001. Another broker, James Fortin, also settled with the commission during the summer by agreeing to a seven-year securities trading suspension. It's not clear if investors will get any of their money back.

The settlement says it's possible investors may receive some return on their investment following a B.C. Supreme Court-ordered sale of the ranch property.