Two former employees of David Douglas, a Winnipeg real estate broker at the centre of two investigations and more than 20 complaints, have come forward with their own concerns about their former employer.
"If I can help to prevent somebody else from getting involved and losing everything that they have — whether it's a little bit or a lot, in terms of today's economy — then I will do it," Shelley Lambert, his former real estate assistant, said in an interview.
The CBC News I-Team has learned Douglas is being investigated by the Manitoba Securities Commission and the RCMP, while more than 20 people are trying to recoup millions of dollars from him and his companies.
The I-Team has found that Douglas was not just selling homes, but he was also acting as a private lender and a mortgage broker. As well, he held free public seminars on "Building Wealth from Real Estate."
Lambert said she selected properties for one of Douglas's companies, Naked Design Homes, in which a team of professionals would help investors renovate and flip homes for profit.
Rita Labossiere, who worked for Douglas as an interior designer, said she decided to try flipping a home, so last fall Douglas offered her a special deal.
"He told me that this was a special project that I wasn't going to tell anybody about — that It was just between me and him," she said.
"I didn't question why the lack of paperwork or anything because this was supposed to be a quick flip."
Assistant grew concerned
Meanwhile, Lambert said she became concerned when work on many of the house-flipping projects she knew of was dragging behind or stopping altogether.
"I started getting wind from people, so to speak, that they weren't happy with their projects. They felt that it was costing them too much money. Renovations had been going over the budget," she said.
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"I asked him about that and said, 'Why is it that all these people seem to be walking away from their projects?' And he said, 'Well, sometimes that happens.'"
Lambert said she was wondering why "a huge majority of the people that I had sold to were walking away from this."
Then she said she learned that "people don't recall signing the paperwork that they had or ... didn't have any paperwork at all."
"I was really ill about it…. This was happening behind the scenes. I did not know of this until after I left there and people were showing me what it is that they had," she said.
"There were pages missing, there were pages that were not signed, that were not initialled, and very vague, very vague documentation."
Both were laid off
Lambert said she then noticed Douglas's behaviour changing. He started avoiding people's phone calls and security at his office building became tighter, she said.
As for Labossiere's project — in which she invested more than $60,000 — she said the renovations wrapped up last December but the house is still in Douglas's name, meaning she cannot sell it.
"OK, what is it going to take for me to get title of this house? What do I owe you, David?" she said.
Labossiere said Douglas would arrange a meeting to discuss the matter, but he would always cancel on her.
Both Labossiere and Lambert said they were laid off by Douglas. Lambert said he still owes her several thousand dollars.
The I-Team has been unable to speak to Douglas despite repeated attempts. His offices in East St. Paul are empty.
Douglas has been registered as a mortgage broker since 2011 but that registration was suspended on May 31 when he failed to renew it, the securities commission said.