Golden Boy : The Disappearance of Harold Backer – the fifth estate

Golden Boy : The Disappearance of Harold Backer – the fifth estate


[ ♪♪♪ ]>>Bob: It is 10:30 am on a
Tuesday morning early in November 2015. In the inner harbour of
Victoria, BC, the Black Ball Ferry pulls away from its dock
before heading out into the strait of Juan de Fuca between
Vancouver Island and the American mainland. It will be a 90-minute crossing
to Port Angeles, Washington. On board the ferry is a man
named Harold Backer.>>He’s so smart, so smart that
he could plan a whole new life in a whole new country in a
whole new language.>>Bob: Backer is a Canadian
sports hero, three-time Olympian, for rowing in Canada
virtually a household name and
about to get even more so
because in an hour and a half when he steps onto US soil,
Harold Backer will simply disappear along with millions of
dollars and the trust of his friends. [ ♪♪♪ ]>>Bob: Harold Backer had told
his wife he was going for a bike ride in Victoria. But on the ferry, his bicycle is
fully loaded with camping gear. More suspicious, he brought his
passport but not his cellphone. Now untrackable by GPS. The last that’s known about
Harold Backer comes from a Victoria couple who
chatted with him on the ferry to Port Angeles. They asked about his bike
and where he was going. They say he told them he was
headed south towards Seattle but hadn’t chosen
an exact route yet. They describe him as being very
pleasant and very relaxed. That was November the 3rd, 2015. Harold Backer hasn’t
been heard from since. [ ♪♪♪ ]>>Bob: To understand why
Harold Backer would disappear and why it’s hit those
close to him so hard, you have got to understand the
almost monk-like ethos of world-class rowers like Backer. It’s a calling Harold Backer
heard when he was barely a teen at the Brentwood college
school in Mill Bay, BC. His first coach there
was Tony Carr. Carr recalls a young man so
talented he competed at the legendary Royal Henley Regatta
in England in just his second year of rowing.>>That’s how good
he was in the tenth grade. He started to fill out and was a
little more substantial in form. And he was showing that
he had a real natural ability at the sport.>>Bob: And Harold Backer was
also a natural student.>>A great intellect.
And that’s the thing. Like many rowers, they’re among
the top 10%, 20% of scholars at the university.>>Bob: Olympic calibre while
still in high school, Backer and Carr would remain a team.>>In lane 3, Canada, the team
of Harold Backer.>>Bob: Athlete and coach all
the way to the Olympic Games.>>This is a very young crew.
Harold Backer just 22.>>His high school career was
exceptional. His university career
was exceptional. He got an MBA after
that in graduate school. Then he — his career as an
athlete was exceptional.>>We have got
a great race going here. The stroke is Harold Backer
from Ladysmith, BC.>>Bob: But even exceptional
athletic careers must come to an end.>>Canada is going
to take third.>>Bob: The 1992 games,
his third Olympics would be his last. After Barcelona, Harold Backer
finally put down his oars. Just 30, the Princeton
educated Backer had options. But the hometown boy
chose to return to the staff at Brentwood, the boarding school
where it all began with a
prolific Olympic record touted
by none other than Rick Mercer.>>If this high school was a
country in terms of overall medal count they would have
placed 54th of 200 nations competing at
the Beijing Olympics. And all of those medals
are in rowing.>>Bob: In class or on the
water, Backer was the strong silent type, 6’3″, quiet, smart
and commanding as Rick Mercer learned when he joined his crew.>>What do I do?>>Well, you listen
to my commands first.>>Does this go over our head?>>Yes, it does.>>Part of the commands
are over the heads, ready, up.>>Bob: He was undeniably a man
who inspired respect and trust.>>Pushing in three.
1-2-3. Good, Rick, good.>>Bob: So when Backer announced
he was going to branch out into a career as an investment
advisor not on Wall Street but in Mill Bay, BC, no one
doubted he would succeed at that too.>>I want to see constant
motion, the blade going to the bow and in.>>Bob: His coach Tony Carr was
among the first to sign up.>>The thing that really
surprised me was he seemed to be happy to live in the backwoods,
you know, in Mill Bay or Shanigan Lake, which
is very country Canada, and be very very happy to live
there and set up a business here in a small
little village almost.>>Bob: Building on that trust,
over the next two decades, Harold Backer put together a
select investment clientele, helping friends, colleagues and
former teammates to achieve their financial goals.>>If you had decided to come
to BC and you met me and you said, who do you think would you
recommend to manage my accounts? I said, I know this guy,
Harold Backer. And I would have
said that to you. I had that faith in him.>>The Canadian crew
is in lane two. Harold Backer from Ladysmith
is in the four position.>>Bob: Indeed there seemed
just one void in that life of accomplishment. Harold Backer had come home
empty handed from each of his three Olympic Games.>>The US win it. So a bit
of a disappointing race for the Canadian crew.>>For us, being on the team
would be one of the wonders of the world. But for him, possibly
not making a medal was a huge disappointment. But he never showed that.
He never voiced that disappointment ever.>>Bob: Fellow Canadian Olympian
Adam Kreek did win gold in 2008 at Beijing.>>It’s going to be
gold for Canada.>>Bob: But Kreek understands
how the unrealistic expectations of one’s self or others could
put pressure on former elite athletes like Harold Backer.>>People say that
guy was an Olympian. It’s a mini badge of honour
but at the same point in time it also creates an element
of pressure and expectations. You’re striving for excellence
in sport so then you’re expected to strive for excellence
in the rest of your life.>>Bob: But Backer never seemed
to be bothered by that in his post Olympic years appearing to
excel publicly and privately. He gave back to his school
and his sport. Divorced, he was remarried
with three handsome children. As an investment advisor, he had
a reputation for carefully guiding his clients through
turbulent economic waters.>>The numbers kept on saying
that there’s modest improvement all the time. At no time is it like some
of these other rip-off artists where they’re promising 15,
20%, nothing like that ever.>>Bob: Nor was there even a
hint of exorbitant spending or a lavish lifestyle.>>Some of these high flying
frauds have taken hundreds of millions of dollars
and lived like kings. He didn’t do that.>>Bob: What he did
was keep rowing. At 52, a member of the old man
rowing club outside Victoria.>>He seemed to just love
being on the water, being — continuing with what he had done
at the highest level while he was at a very, very much
more modest level.>>Bob: So no doubts about
Harold Backer, at least not yet. There would be
more than enough to come. In the fall of 2015, he was once
again out with the old man rowing club. Fellow Olympian Adam Kreek
sensed something was wrong. When they’d spoken recently,
Backer didn’t seem his dependably confident self.>>Harold came up. Not all of us
can be as positive as you just projecting the
general mood of the blues. I thought it was
unusual at the time. I had not seen that
side of Harold before.>>Bob: What they didn’t know
yet but were about to find out is that within 24 hours,
none of them would see Harold Backer again. The next morning he was on
the 10.30 am ferry to the US. And before long, Tony Carr
got the phone call.>>Another rowing coach phoned
me and said do you know Harold’s missing? And as soon as I heard that,
I thought so is my money. Nobody in that money business
disappears for other reasons. They don’t disappear for
any other reason except money. [ ♪♪♪ ]>>Bob: But how
could that possibly be? The faithful friend, the trusted
teammate, the brilliant man who had taken such loving care
of their money and them for so long. Some of his rowing pals couldn’t
bring themselves to believe the worst, not yet. They organized a search party
hoping to find him somewhere in Washington state, perhaps lost
or injured on his bike.>>When they were over there,
I think they got a call saying, don’t bother continuing looking
because Harold’s really gone.>>Bob: Really gone, they knew,
because after he left, his clients received this letter
from Harold Backer, apparently mailed just
before boarding the ferry. “I will never be able to fix the “colossal mistake I made when my “market-based funds lost between “25 and 45% of their market “value in the dot-com crash.”>>Bob: It is a remarkable mea culpa in a financial fraud.>>”My mistake was not telling “my investors about the loss. “I realize there is no way in my “lifetime I could pay it back to “my investors. “I have done a terrible thing to “my friends. “I’m deeply and truly sorry for “the effects of my “poor decisions.”>>Bob: It turns out he was
paying one investor with funds from another,
a classic pyramid scheme.>>”If admitting to fraud would “help restore the losses, “I would accept
the criminal penalty.”>>Bob: For those whose money
was gone, there was no longer a reason to trust Harold Backer.
For 75-year-old Tony Carr, it was his retirement fund
along with an inheritance from the recent death
of his wife’s mother.>>Between the money that I had
and the money that she had, it’s $787,000.>>Someone you have known for
so long and trusted for so long has done something terrible.>>I feel that I have been
kicked, absolutely kicked in–>>Bob: You can say it.>>Kicked in the balls.
I was sickened by it. How could I be so wrong and
how could so many other people be so wrong? We trusted him.>>Bob: Nick Prowse is also a
former Brentwood teacher who’s known Backer since
he was a tenth grader. Now 80, a big chunk of Prowse’s
retirement savings is gone as well. May I ask how much
that was in all?>>$375,000.>>Bob: God.
As to whether they would ever see that money again,
Backer left them with just a hint of hope.>>”I have a Transamerica life “insurance policy with a face “value of $1,500,000. “This amount is to be divided “among my investors in a “prorated fashion. “Thank you for your “undeserved friendship. “I am eternally sorry for my “financial decisions.”>>Bob: At first, Prowse and
others thought that meant Backer had committed suicide
to try to make amends. But no body has been found.
And Prowse thinks that might well be just another lie.>>You know, I can’t believe that somebody of Harold’s
intelligence would — could make such a mess of financial things,
you know, by accident.>>Bob: In all, when he boarded
that ferry from Victoria, Harold Backer left behind
15 clients, including his own brother who
invested a total of $3 million which he strongly implies
is now all lost. His family fears Harold Backer
is lost too posting a plaintiff plea on Facebook,
please pray for Harold. The authorities
are doing more than that. No charges have been laid. But there have been three
investigations into Backer and his business by the Victoria
police, the B.C. Security Commission and the RCMP. Yet somehow there still
are clients who can’t help blaming themselves.>>I guess I was naive too
because he was a good friend and I assumed that he had
my best interests at heart.>>Well, why would that be
naivety to trust someone you knew for years.>>Yes, I know. I agree. If you can’t trust a friend,
who can you trust?>>Bob: The last we know
of Harold Backer, he was leaving the ferry
in Port Angeles, Washington, caught here by American security
cameras seemingly gaining speed headed south. Many of his clients believe he
may still have some, perhaps a lot of their money.>>I would just love to have
my money back, please. Just give me my money back.
I could even wish him good luck in his new life and his new
venture, whatever that may be. But don’t come back and see me.
Just send me the money. [ ♪♪♪ ]

100 Comments

  1. Ok I totally recognize this guy. I swear he was in my place of work on may. I have to go back through my receipts and see if I have an email address. I work in a gallery in AZ and he came in, had us hold something for him and came back on the day he told us he would then pay cash for a sculpture. This was may 2019.

  2. People like to trust and give so much credit to proud athlete. Although I don’t think this guy was not truly evil but he was not definitely hero. People thought he was.

  3. This documentary reminded me of the Winklevoss twins, from The Social Network (2009) fame, the Facebook scandal/feud with Mark Zuckerberg, etc.

  4. This is so sad because they worshipped him as a God for he had good looks and, was very smart wasn't he though !!!!!!!at the end all who believed in him his friends lost everything but he did also his Salvation.

  5. dont put all your eggs in one basket and never mix business with pleasure. and if you want to lose a friendship hand over your hard earned cash!

  6. I hate when old stuff shows up in my suggested box! Now my comment shows up in the notations of all who commented and it is annoying to get old video notations! I wish YT had an actual suggestion of customer service area that was connected to something!
    Maybe I have misunderstood something but it sounded like he made some investing mistakes. Isn't that all part of the risk that you take with investments? I understand their disappointment but I am disappointed in the level of concern they have for their friend. If they didn't wish to gamble with their money then they should've put in a coffee can & not earned any interest off of it. We lost 150,000.00 & pulled out the same amount before it was gone too and decided the gamble was not for us. I think your friend panicked & mishandled the money because he suspected that you expected only financial gain from your investments and would no longer care about him if things didn't go your way. Investing is educated gambling but it is still a gamble. Next time put your money under a mattress & love your friends for who they are & not what they can do for you. Money & friendship should never mix, same with family. I feel really sad for the loss of your life savings but I feel even worse for this young man who was so desperate to keep his friend's admiration & respect that he broke the law and is now on the run. People should not invest or gamble anymore than they can afford to lose because that may be exactly what happens. Greed will get us everytime.

  7. I think everyone on here knows someone working in the financial world. When we see them regardless of where u are it’s always the same thing, “ hook me up on a good investment, have u got any good juice to slip me, or where ever is said”. I’m not saying this is what these people were doing, not at all. These people were in for the long haul. My point is this U DONT EVER LET A FRIEND HANDLE UR MONEY! Regardless who it is that’s comes to tell u it’s all gone (and that’s if they even tell u) it will hurt worse coming from a friend. Money managers know this. That’s why I brought my comment up at the beginning, most of ur friends who are in this business won’t take ur money. Maybe if they are just starting out and they need a little money to show they are already urning. The reason is this; it’s a lose lose situation. If they urn u a little money it’s not enough. If they run u a lot of money, the customers wanna know how much they urned off of them. They want to know why this or that fee is so high. Now from the money managers side, the problem lies with being strong enough to tell ur friends or family that you’ve lost their retirement! Some think they can make it back by some of aggressive scheme but it hardly ever works. My point in all this is dont trust ur money manager especially if he’s a good friend! Don’t get mad if a friend or relative shuns u when asked about a “blue chip stock” that’s come out. If anything be VERY weary of them if they come to u first! I’m sorry for typing so much, I’m just a little board today cause of this house arrest bullshit I’m dealing with! I’m kinda a flight risk right now so I got me some ankle jewelry too. They called it a ‘Ponzi’ scheme, they be right! Lol

  8. I think everyone on here knows someone working in the financial world. When we see them regardless of where u are it’s always the same thing, “ hook me up on a good investment, have u got any good juice to slip me, or where ever is said”. I’m not saying this is what these people were doing, not at all. These people were in for the long haul. My point is this U DONT EVER LET A FRIEND HANDLE UR MONEY! Regardless who it is that’s comes to tell u it’s all gone (and that’s if they even tell u) it will hurt worse coming from a friend. Money managers know this. That’s why I brought my comment up at the beginning, most of ur friends who are in this business won’t take ur money. Maybe if they are just starting out and they need a little money to show they are already urning. The reason is this; it’s a lose lose situation. If they urn u a little money it’s not enough. If they run u a lot of money, the customers wanna know how much they urned off of them. They want to know why this or that fee is so high. Now from the money managers side, the problem lies with being strong enough to tell ur friends or family that you’ve lost their retirement! Some think they can make it back by some of aggressive scheme but it hardly ever works. My point in all this is dont trust ur money manager especially if he’s a good friend! Don’t get mad if a friend or relative shuns u when asked about a “blue chip stock” that’s come out. If anything be VERY weary of them if they come to u first! I’m sorry for typing so much, I’m just a little board today cause of this house arrest bullshit I’m dealing with! I’m kinda a flight risk right now so I got me some ankle jewelry too. They called it a ‘Ponzi’ scheme, they be right! Lol

  9. After OJ and Lance Armstrong and so many others when will we ever stop making athletes our heroes? They are simply people that are lucky or worked hard enough to do well at a sport? I prefer someone with a good heart that is kind to people and animals over someone that gets high score in their sport or game. Am I wrong?

  10. Financial markets tend to be more difficult than even the high achievers believe. I bet he had the sports-guy confidence and I'm-never-wrong attitude which almost always means losing in the markets.

  11. its funny every person is more about the money than is well being . yet they are all still alive and well without it '' hope he get to see is family again

  12. ppl should stop putting their money into a magic pot and expect it to grow. Instead they should learn how to grow their own food and build good relationships with their relatives so they get support in their late years.

  13. It's beyond me why someone would use a financial advisor leaving them responsible for your money. Hard lesson learnt move on you won't see it again.

  14. The narration says “he was paying one investor with funds from another, a classic pyramid scheme”. What was meant here was “ponzi scheme”.

  15. We saw a man dressed in his clothes riding his bike..without his phone with his passport..a letter was typed and sent..two witnesses on boat ?
    Could have been foul play here..jhos got the money ?

  16. Never ever invest money in any investment company. It's safer in the bank. My stepdad lost $300,000 in numerous investment companies, some went broke while others committed fraud and the directors went to prison. Nobody got their money back. My stepdad who had worked hard all his life, been very frugal and had saved and saved and saved, was not in his 80s and not well. This news killed him.

  17. July 4, 2018
    Harold Backer, former Olympic rower, sentenced to 13 months jail for fraud

    The mysterious case of Harold Backer has taken another twist.

    The former Olympic rower and investment dealer has been sentenced to 14 months in jail after pleading guilty to fraud. The sentence was reduced by a month based on time served while in custody. He was also ordered to serve three year probation term that will prohibit being involved in financial investment.

    “The resolution in this case, a guilty plea to a single count of fraud in excess of $500, by pleading guilty the accused waves his right for an appeal,” said crown counsel spokesperson Dan McLaughlin. “The resolution of this case was arrived at after a full and careful consideration of all the charges.”

    Backer had originally plead not guilty, but switched the plea on Wednesday morning in a Victoria courtroom to guilty on one charge of fraud over $5,000.

  18. sounds like a very straightforward case of a very good man that could not face the losses he made for his clients and took off. I'm looking at the cynical hard comments below and they all lack any form of compassion typical of today's selfish self-centered world. the guy came back to face his judgment but that's not enough for most people, what a shame we live in such a cold-hearted world, no forgiveness, a friendless cold world. I applaud the man for facing up to his misdeeds. His family should be very proud of him. What he lost was peanuts, check out the case of Richard Fagan the Irish Kijani investment fund owner that made 184 Million of peoples money disappear fraudulently through a series of false companies and well-known banks and he still walks today, a free man. See the difference?

  19. All the good work he done in his early years & he turns into a common crook, especially leaving his life he had just for money, it never surprises me what people would do for money!

  20. Former Olympic rower Harold Backer received a 13-month jail sentence Wednesday after pleading guilty to fraud, but no answers were provided about his mysterious 18 month disappearance that sparked an international police search. Backer disappeared on Nov. 3, 2015, when he failed to return home after telling his family he was going out for a bike ride. He surrendered to police in Victoria in April 2017 and his whereabouts while he was missing have never been explained.

  21. If your active in the market, the market works against your intellect. That is why people such as successful poker players can do well, it takes a different set of skills, starting with patience.

  22. I’m sorry but an MBA and a crew background does not a investment banker make. He didn’t go to Wall Street because his skills wouldn’t have translated. I wouldn’t have given him a dime.

  23. This guy is not the sociopath that others are like Bernie Madoff. He made one mistake followed by a lie. Pride and fear kept him from admitting he made a mistake so he tried to make their money back and lost more so now he really isn’t honest. The first lie lead to hundreds. Seen it happen a lot. Moral of the story, swallow your pride and be honest. It will save you from bigger problems later.

  24. THE PROBLEM IS THAT PEOPLE THAT PUT MONEY IN A INVESTMENT / IS A NICE WORD FOR A GAMBLE / YOU WANT TO WIN / BUT SOME TIMES YOU LOUSE / SO IN THE LONG RUN / IT THERE OWN DAM FAULT / AND NO BODY ELSE / YOU WANT TO PLAY YOU HAVE TO PAY / SORRY BUT THAT'S THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLES / THE ONLY ONE YOU OR ANY BODY CAN TRUST IS JESUS THE CHRIST HE NEVER LIES PUT YOUR TRUST IN HIM AND YOU WIN NOW AND ALL THRU ETERNITY AMEN .

  25. We had a canoeist like him in Hartlepool England….faked his death by canoeing out to sea left his clothes on the beach …. him and his wife doing an insurance job…..he turned up years later down London…after spending years in South America…telling the police he didn’t know who he was…ended up doing time in prison lol …..never say die up the pools…..

  26. a very good motto to live by is 2 believe that everybody that you know or come in contact with will do what's best or what will enrich them
    in today's world nobody really even cares about their brother or sister as long as they come out on top. that is what I have seen through life it's what I believe. I'm just glad that I'm old enough that I won't be around when everything implodes. please treat your children well because they're the ones that decide where you go when you get old

  27. I learned after Bernie Madoff. Put your money in the bank. A little extra with investing isn't worth it. It's heartbreaking that these people lost their money. I don't fully understand the story because he was just doing his job right? Investments go up and down. I'll have to look this up.

  28. I don't know WHY everyone keeps using the word "lend." He never borrowed money from ANYONE, he was a broker who didn't do well investing it. He did a service for them.

    The stock market is a scam anyway.

    Go look for non-mainstream documentaries on the topic.

    I remember seeing something about it last year (I think.)

    And especially now that the computers are so fast.

    In fact there was a Canadian kid who quit his job to investigate the computer scam with the stock market.

    This was several years ago.

    If memory serves, he was working for RBC & then headed to the States to work with the FBI or something (I can't remember the whole story.)

    Our ENTIRE financial system is a SCAM.

    The Federal Reserve is a scam.

    The bankers control soooo much, you have no idea.

    The ONLY people who make money off the stock market are the evil elite.

    It's time to wake UP people. It's better to be WOKE, then brainwashing & being in denial about what goes on out there.

    Sorry you lost your money, I know how painful it is. I was scammed by an ex bf many years ago after I supposed him for almost 2 years.

  29. You've got to be totally detached to leave your wife, cheat your brother and abandoned a life with an Olympic history. He probably never invested any of that $3M and just took it all with him when it was time to flee.

  30. I’m only @10:16 or so, and we have his first coach, who has spoken of him so proudly, and he says, his first thought when told the guy was missing, was “and so is my money”. That’s very telling, if the coach is speaking truthfully. He didn’t worry his friend might be dead of a heart attack, out on a training row, or had a car accident not yet discovered. So on some level, he’d always had doubts, I think.

  31. 10/14/19….HOW ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING! AFTER all these yrs this guy has run off with all the investors' money!
    I DON'T think he lost it all….I think he siphoned off a bit @ a time & then made a mad dash for the border with however much was remaining.
    He's prob got a new ID, had plastic surgery, moved to a country with NO extradition with Canada….& living the "life of Riley" @ these ppls' expense!
    HOPE they hire a really good PI/007 "type" who can hunt him down & bring him + $$$ back to "face the music"!
    IF NOT, I hope criminals find out WHAT he has done & "finish him off"!
    GOD BLESS THESE PPL WHO LOST THEIR INVESTMENT FUNDS + THEIR FUTURE SECURITY!

  32. There is a reason that the Lord says not to trust any man…only in him. Paraphrased kjv…he is probably in Mexico or South America.

  33. Can’t trust anyone.

    Not your “friends”.

    Not your “family”.

    Not “acquaintances”.

    Not your “colleagues”.

    NO ONE.

    Human nature is such that every being has a light and dark side to their character.

  34. my own father had a lot of saying and advice for me
    1 thing he once told me as a young lad
    was TRUST NOBODY IN LIFE EVEN YOUR OWN FATHER

  35. There are two fundamentals lessons one should learn from this story
    1. Never trust no one.
    2. Never put all your eggs in one basket.

  36. think we all have been burned one way or another..it is heart breaking, but most of all it destroys ones faith in mankind…Friend? few and trusted but with boundaries…

  37. Funny how they don’t allow any comments on any videos involving Muslim’s …….. all about Islam a phobia what are these Canadian news agencies scared of ?

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