Missing British Columbia man turns self in to police after 17 months, faces fraud charges

Harold Backer

VICTORIA — Harold Backer, a Canadian investment adviser and former Olympic rower who was last seen leaving the MV Coho ferry in Port Angeles in November 2015, has turned himself in to Victoria authorities.

The 53-year-old is facing two counts of fraud over $5,000, Victoria police said after he showed up at Victoria Police Department headquarters Thursday afternoon.

Backer, whose former clients alleged that they lost millions, failed to return home after telling his family that he was going for a bicycle ride Nov. 3, 2015.

Port Angeles police said they saw Backer or someone matching his description on security footage leaving the ferry and riding through the city, Deputy Police Chief Brian Smith said Friday.

Backer was considered a missing or endangered person for the next 17 months.

Smith said it was “curious” why Backer wasn’t stopped at the Canadian border.

“A lot people were looking for him,” Smith said.

Victoria police spokesman Matt Rutherford could not be reached for comment Friday.

Shortly after his disappearance, investigators launched a probe into Backer’s My Financial Backer Corp., Victoria police said.

Backer’s investors, who accused him of fraud, had received “concerning letters” from Backer, police said.

In a letter to 15 clients, one of which was published by the Victoria Times Colonist, Backer took responsibility for their financial losses and admitted to starting a pyramid scheme after the dot-com crash of 1999-2000. He said he had a $1.5 million life insurance policy that would cover most of his investors’ losses.

Rutherford told the Times Colonist that Backer’s arrival “came as a surprise.”

Backer remains in custody, Victoria police said. His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.

“Financial and major crime detectives will continue working on the file over the weekend,” Victoria police said in a Friday statement.

“As the matter is before the courts, we will not be releasing any other details.”

Port Angeles police were in the process of removing Backer from the missing and endangered persons list Friday.

Using surveillance footage, Port Angeles police spotted Backer or someone who looked like Backer leaving the Coho ferry, making a left onto East First Street and riding “further up into PA,” Smith said.

“That’s the only information we established,” Smith said.

Last November, a Port Angeles woman told the Times Colonist that she had seen Backer in Port Angeles two days after his disappearance.

Backer rowed in the Olympics in 1984, 1988 and 1992.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.