Manitoba

Former Winnipeg property manager ordered to pay $100K, sentenced to house arrest after misusing funds

A former Winnipeg property developer has been sentenced to a year of house arrest and ordered to pay $100,000 after using investors' money to fund projects including renovations on his home, a sofa for his girlfriend and a hockey rink in his own backyard.

Jeff Rabb pleaded guilty to false pretences after misappropriating funds from investors between 2009 and 2015

Former Winnipeg property developer Jeff Rabb was sentenced to a year of house arrest after he pleaded guilty in court Wednesday to false pretences. He's seen here in an interview with CBC in 2013. (CBC)

A former Winnipeg property manager has been sentenced to a year of house arrest and ordered to pay $100,000 after using investors' money to fund projects including renovations on his home and a hockey rink in his own backyard, and to buy a sofa for his girlfriend.

Jeff Rabb admitted on Wednesday to misappropriating funds, in separate proceedings before the Manitoba Securities Commission and a Manitoba provincial court judge.

On Wednesday morning, the commission approved a settlement agreement that said Rabb defrauded investors in his company Winpark Dorchester Properties — later called Alderman Capital Corporation — of more than $421,000 between 2009 and 2015.

The Manitoba Securities Commission agreement, which Rabb signed, revoked Rabb's licence with the commission, banned him for life, and ordered him to pay $30,000 to the province of Manitoba as well as the $70,000 it cost the commission to conduct its investigation.

Rabb, 62, used money from trust accounts belonging to roughly 50 Winpark-managed properties to pay for work on his house, his girlfriend's house and an employee's cottage, the agreement says.

To hide his tracks, the bills would be written up as work done on Winpark properties and split between several invoices.

Rabb systematically and significantly stole from my aging parents who, through their misguided trust, never questioned his integrity, or lack thereof.- Eric Vickar, in a victim impact statement

Rabb or another Winpark director told contractors to make fake invoices, white-out addresses on receipts, and change job site locations on documentation, the agreement says.

In one case, the construction of a hockey rink in Rabb's backyard was paid for through 60 separate cheques, billed to more than 20 individual properties.

In another example, Winpark applied for Power Smart rebates on behalf of nine properties, and then cashed cheques worth more than $60,000 directly into the personal account of a Winpark director. Bank drafts were then issued to Rabb, and a portion of the money was given to him in cash.

Rabb declined to comment Thursday afternoon.

'We were devastated,' victim tells court

Hours after appearing at the Securities Commission, Rabb entered a guilty plea to a charge of false pretences before a Manitoba provincial court judge, in a criminal court case that focused specifically on roughly $92,000 worth of misappropriated funds from two Winpark buildings at 585 and 605 River Ave.

The misappropriations in those cases followed the same pattern, including examples in which Rabb invoiced work done at his girlfriend's house as "windows" and billed portions of it to the properties. In one case, in 2009, Rabb billed the properties for more than $6,000 worth of work at his own home, including repairing his laundry room, re-sanding his deck and re-sealing his hot tub.

Court heard the victims affected by the misappropriation included family friends and an old neighbour of Rabb's. In a pair of victim impact statements read before the court, victims said Rabb had broken their trust.

"We were devastated," said Michael Kay, a Winnipeg lawyer who was chosen to speak on behalf of victims.

Kay told court he and his wife, Glenna, had been friendly with Rabb and his family before financial irregularities came to light. Since that time, Kay told court Rabb has blamed him and his wife for the charges, and said Rabb initiated legal action against him that was eventually dropped.

"It's not only strangers, but people who knew him and trusted him," Kay said. "The scars for such a breach of trust continue, particularly in light of his failure to provide any apology."

In another statement, victim Eric Vickar wrote that Rabb befriended his family through his brother. When Rabb started his company, Vickar wrote, his parents trusted Rabb and were happy to help him financially.

"Over a period of several years, Rabb systematically and significantly stole from my aging parents, who, through their misguided trust, never questioned his integrity or lack thereof," Vickar wrote in the statement, which Kay read to the court.

Rabb has since repaid the investors, including a payment in excess of $20,000 made on Wednesday.

'I'm extremely sorry': Rabb

Richard Wolson, one of Rabb's two defence lawyers, told court he'd previously instructed Rabb not to apologize or contact any of his victims. On Wednesday, Rabb apologized to the group.

"I'm extremely sorry to the victims of my crime," he said. "I sincerely apologize for my deeds, and the harm I have caused to those hurt by my actions."

Crown prosecutor Peter Edgett told court Rabb, who was previously a lawyer, has a law degree in addition to his former licence with the Manitoba Securities Commission.

"Anyone should know a lot better, especially Mr. Rabb," Edgett said.

Provincial court Judge Larry Allen accepted the joint recommendation from Edgett and Rabb's defence team for a 12-month house arrest sentence, with conditions including a curfew and abstinence from alcohol and marijuana.

Allen told Rabb he should be grateful to his lawyers, Wolson and Evan Roitenberg, for securing a sentence that didn't send him to jail. He added Rabb needs to find a way to acknowledge the suffering he caused by breaking trust.

"I'm not talking about $92,000 worth of suffering. I'm talking about suffering of a much greater kind," Allen said. "And you've got to figure out … if there isn't something you can do about that."

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