In an infomercial-style television show he hosted in 2014, Donald Trump Jr. featured a Winnipeg businessman who was, at the time, facing 12 income tax evasion charges in Manitoba.
Jeff Dyck appeared on Florida-based 21st Century Television with the junior Trump in 2014, two years after Dyck had been hit with numerous charges of tax evasion in Winnipeg for his role in a company called One World United.
Dyck and a co-accused will be sentenced in a Winnipeg courtroom today.
In the 2014 TV program, Trump Jr. asked Dyck to explain his new business venture, Local Exclusive Offers Inc. (LEO). The company created an app and, on its website, billed itself as a way to "bring retailer offers to consumers on the technology tool of their choice — their smartphone."
Trump Jr. is the oldest son of U.S. President Donald Trump. He and his brother Eric assumed full control of the sprawling business empire and will run it during their father's term in office.
"To remain competitive today, businesses need to engage with their customers on a multitude of platforms," Trump Jr. said in the program.
"Here today to discuss how his company is helping retailers achieve this through a mobile platform we have Jeff Dyck, CEO of LEO. Welcome Jeff."
Throughout the 10-minute infomercial-style program, there is no mention of Dyck's pending tax evasion charges. Trump Jr. asks Dyck to explain how the LEO app works, why it is innovative, and what its advantages are.
"Well, it sounds like something very interesting for both consumers and retailers," Trump Jr. concludes at the end of the segment.
"I'm speechless," said Aleisha Reimer after the CBC News I-Team recently showed her the video of Jeff Dyck on the program with Trump Jr.
Reimer's family lost thousands of dollars after her late father, Ben, invested in One World United.
"I mean, the Trump family is a huge family and a big brand and enormously rich and to see some loser like Jeff Dyck in the same room makes me worry about the Trump administration," Reimer said.
"Why is Trump Jr. giving somebody like Jeff Dyck his time, because Trump Jr. — his time would be valuable. And for him to give Jeff Dyck that time is considerable. For me it doesn't legitimize what Jeff Dyck is doing, but nothing would because he has lost my trust already," Reimer said.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization responded to CBC's request for comment.
"While Mr. Trump did at one time serve as the host of the show, he was in no way involved in the selection of the guests and, accordingly, had no knowledge as to their background. Again, all of this would have been the responsibility of the producer," said Alan Garten.
Garten then referred questions from CBC News to the producer of 21st Century Television.
On its website, 21st Century Television calls itself "an award winning business show that is independently produced by MMP (USA)."
Based in Boca Raton, Fla., the show was hosted by Donald Trump Jr. and featured interviews with business people. MMP (USA) Inc. did not respond to the I-Team's requests for comment.
Trump may not have known about Dyck's charges, but hundreds of Manitoba investors did and will be closely watching Dyck and co-accused Neil Friesen's sentencing on Friday afternoon.
They were first charged in 2012 with numerous counts of tax evasion under Canada's Income Tax Act in connection with One World United Inc. In September of 2015 they pleaded guilty to two charges each.
At a sentencing hearing in provincial court last October, the Crown asked the judge to impose a four-year jail term and a $1 million fine for each accused.
The crown noted Friesen had in the past been involved in other aggressive tax planning schemes dating back to 2003, including one called the Banyan Tree, which was referred to as "a false donation scheme" that was disallowed by the Canada Revenue Agency.
Crown attorney Kirsty Elgert said Friesen and Dyck created and marketed a false tax writeoff scheme using One World United and brought about 325 investors into the company.
Elgert called it an "aggressive tax planning scheme" in which participants contributed an amount in cash to One World and in return, received invoices for business losses equal to four times the amount of cash contributed.
"So essentially I give you $5,000, you write an invoice to me for 20 [thousand]," Elgert told court.
"The participants could then use these losses on their individual income tax returns in order to reduce their total income for the year."
The problem, though, was that the Canada Revenue Agency ultimately did not allow the deductions.
'Based purely on financial greed': Crown
"The invoices issued to participants for losses totalled approximately $22.3 million. Of that $22.3 million, CRA determined that approximately $14.5 million were fake losses that had not occurred," Elgert told the court.
"At the end of the day, this was based purely on financial greed. And financial greed not only of Mr. Dyck and Mr. Friesen — financial greed of the participants," Elgert said.
"It's a common-sense thing — 5,000, you get a loss for 20? Clearly something's not right."
Elgert said CRA ultimately did recover about $2.2 million in federal tax evaded by participants in the scheme.
The Crown said Friesen and Dyck each profited by about $1 million from their involvement in the scheme. Friesen was paid commissions for selling the investments and Dyck was paid a salary, court heard.
Elgert said that as the lone shareholder in the company, Dyck enjoyed lifestyle benefits.
"There were a number of extravagant trips, there were two apartments that were rented in Las Vegas, and he too realized a substantial personal tax savings by having One World supporting his lifestyle," Elgert said.
"To see a punishment come down — any kind of punishment — is a relief. It's a little bit of vindication for what happened," said Aleisha Reimer.
"I'm definitely happy and relieved and actually surprised to hear that there were legal proceedings because I typically think that these kind of white-collar crimes aren't necessarily punished as well as they should be," Reimer said.
'These kind of white-collar crimes aren't necessarily punished as well as they should be.' - Aleisha Reimer
Reimer believes Friesen took advantage of her father, who was in declining health when Friesen sold him the investment in One World United.
"It would be great if he had jail time. I also don't want him to have a lavish lifestyle when he gets out, essentially," Reimer said.
But in court, the accused maintained they never meant for their investors to lose out.
"I believed 100 per cent that One World would be successful and that CRA and the clients and myself would be getting an ongoing taxable income," Friesen told the judge at the sentencing hearing last fall.
"The plan was for success, never failure," he said.
He told the judge he's still in touch with about 250 clients and has been trying to raise enough money to repay them.
He said that a few months ago, he wrote to clients and asked them to forgive him. "To my surprise all but three or four did," Friesen said.
"When One World went out of business, my family, friends and my attorney at the time told me just to walk away," Dyck told the judge in court last October, choking back tears.
"I was told to declare bankruptcy and just walk away and worry about myself. It wasn't even a consideration to me," he said.
"Your Honour, I acknowledge I made a lot of mistakes. But I've never walked away. I've never walked away from anyone, or shirked my responsibilities," Dyck said, adding he launched the LEO App venture as an attempt to raise money to repay clients in One World.
He told the judge he has relocated with his family to Las Vegas.
The lawyer for Friesen and Dyck asked the judge to consider house arrest, rather than jail time, if incarceration is found to be necessary.
Elgert summed up the tax evasion saying, "You are taking from fellow citizens by not paying your proper taxes."
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