VANCOUVER -- The British Columbia Securities Commission has ruled that 484 people were defrauded of $65 million over a 3 1/2-year period by a former mutual fund salesman who promoted investments through a weekly radio infomercial broadcast in Victoria.

A BCSC panel said David Michaels was paid $5.8 million in fees and commissions for sales of exempt market securities -- a legal type of investment -- to clients through deception and without advising them of the risks involved.

The panel said Michaels denied that he advised clients on the purchase or sales of securities, or committed fraud, and said he characterized his business as a successful sales operation.

But the panel concluded that Michaels preyed on clients by frightening them and misleading them to invest in the exempt market, which was more risky than conventional investments.

"In fact. . . what Michaels was running was not a legitimate sales business but a massive fraud," the panel said in a ruling dated Aug. 6 and released on Tuesday.

"Through dishonesty and misrepresentation, he put his clients' money at risk. As a result, they have lost millions of dollars."

The panel said that Michaels lured clients with a the weekly informercial called "Creating Wealth with David Michaels" broadcast on radio station C-FAX 1070, and by seminars in Victoria and Vancouver as well as meetings at his offices.

It said Michaels paid C-FAX about $2,000 for each weekly taped program, which was broadcast on Saturdays.

The panel will decide penalties after conducting a separate process.