Ottawa

Convicted contractor 'Slippery Phil' Slobodzian resurfaces in Barrhaven

Philip Slobodzian has been repeatedly charged, convicted, fined and jailed for fraud-related crimes, but that hasn’t stopped him from preying on homeowners, especially seniors.

'He is the most unethical piece of garbage I have ever had the dissatisfaction of meeting'

Joy Caron says she chased a man down in January who came to her door and presented her with a letter demanding payment. (CBC)

Ottawa roofing contractor Philip Slobodzian has been repeatedly charged, convicted, fined and jailed for deceptive practices, failing to refund customers their money and failing to provide them with contracts. 

He's well known to the Ottawa police, who have slapped Slobodzian with fraud-related charges multiple times. Now the police fraud unit has launched a fresh investigation, which they describe as an "open file."

The 45-year-old contractor is so notorious for targeting unsuspecting home owners that throughout the Ottawa Valley he's often referred to as "Slippery Phil."

"Mr. Slobodzian is just a snake in my book," says Joy Caron, a feisty former captain with the Canadian Armed Forces. "He is the most unethical piece of garbage I have ever had the dissatisfaction of meeting." 

Harassed clients for payment

Caron is one of seven neighbours in Ottawa's Barrhaven neighbourhood who hired Slobodzian in the spring of 2015 for roofing jobs, a decision they now bitterly regret.

Now the neighbours have banded together to fight him.

They accuse him of doing unprofessional work and constantly harassing them for more money.
Phil Slobodzian has been convicted of deceptive criminal practices but he continues to find work. (Supplied photo)

Caron shows photos of a large pile of construction debris that she says Slobodzian left at the side of her house, a gouge in her siding and a dumpster that she says she had to pay $600 to have removed.

"He did not complete my vents. He left me with a huge mess, a dumpster bill. I had to pay to have my siding replaced."

George Hanson, another member of the group, says roofers Slobodzian hired complained to him they weren't getting paid. With part of his home exposed to the elements, the workers downed tools and would only complete the job once he agreed to pay them directly.

Hanson says Slobodzian dropped out of sight for six weeks and could not be reached. When he showed up again it was to demand money for the job he abandoned. Hanson told him to get lost.

"It's pure harassment. That's all we're getting now is just pure harassment. And then he's got the nerve to add all this stuff on my bill which I have nothing to do with or don't know nothing about," says Hanson.

Lawyer's letter threatens legal action

The final straw came after the group received letters from Slobodzian's lawyer.

The letter to Caron, dated July 4, claims Caron still owes Slobodzian $7,224.15. It goes on to say that if she doesn't pay up within 10 days legal action will commence.

Caron says she already paid $5,500 up front and won't be paying a penny more.

Hal McGuire is taking the same stand and said he refuses to be intimidated.

"He's threatened legal action, and I say bring it on. Because there is no question in my mind how he's treating me and how he's treating my neighbours is a scam."

Caron says the threats of legal action are only the latest in a series of tactics that have left some of Slobodzian's more elderly clients "terrified."

Hal McGuire said he refused to be intimidated by Phil Slobodzian, who allegedly threatened him with legal action. (CBC)

'Like a guy from The Sopranos'

She says in January of this year a hulking man came to her door and presented her with a letter demanding payment.

"He almost looked like a guy from The Sopranos: big, tall, heavyset gentleman, black hair. I'm five-foot-six, ex-military, I don't care, don't piss me off. This guy is not going to intimidate me."

Caron says she chased the man down the street in her slippers even though there was snow on the ground. She got his licence plate number while another neighbour called the police.

"I said, 'Get off my street. You're conning us. Do you realize this Mr. Slobodzian is a con artist? We don't put up with your type on this street."

Slobodzian is believed by authorities to be living in the Renfrew and Arnprior area, although it's unclear where he actually resides because court documents list different addresses.

Regular at Ottawa Court House

One place Slobodzian is often seen is the Ottawa Court House on Elgin Street, where he's listed as being involved in close to 50 lawsuits over the past 10 years, both as a plaintiff and a defendant.

The most recent case, filed just a few weeks ago, is a demand for a Kanata couple to pay him $25,000 for a roofing job. When contacted by CBC the couple was not aware of the lawsuit, and said Slobodzian had virtually nothing to do with the job on their home.

Other people out there are dealing with this person and he's doing the same thing to them. We just do not want to sit back.- Joy Caron, client

Over the years, Slobodzian has been listed on Ontario's Consumer Beware List. He's been convicted under the Consumer Protection Act four times, sentenced to jail three times and fined tens of thousands of dollars.

Late last year the fraud unit of the Ottawa police published a mug shot of Slobodzian and asked for the public's help in tracking him down. 

And yet the combined forces of the police and the province have so far failed to stop the stream of complaints from people who say he victimized them.

Caron says one of the reasons she came forward is because she fears Slobodzian is constantly looking for fresh victims.

"Other people out there are dealing with this person and he's doing the same thing to them. We just do not want to sit back."

Philip Slobodzian is wanted by Ottawa police on two charges of fraud under $5,000 and two charges of possession of the proceeds of crime. (Ottawa police handout)

Former business partner warns suppliers

The group of Barrhaven residents isn't alone.

Dave Ballantyne has visited all of the building supply stores he could find in the area, where he showed staff photos of Slobodzian and warned them not do business with him.

"He still thinks he lives in the Wild West, in my opinion, where there is no law. It's a lawless society. He does whatever he wants."

Ballantyne says he met Slobodzian three years ago in a bar. He decided to hire him because Slobodzian portrayed himself as skilled in the building trades. 

The pair worked together on a home-building venture that quickly went sour and resulted in the Ontario Consumer Ministry laying charges against them. The charge against Ballantyne was dropped after the investigator concluded Slobodzian was the real culprit.

Slobodzian and Ballantyne are still fighting each other in small claims court. Slobodzian claims he's owed thousands of dollars. Ballantyne says the claims are bogus.

"I think it's important the community keeps an eye out for this guy. He comes in, he's fast, he's aggressive. He's good at what he does, which is being a con artist."

Targets seniors, immigrants

Ballantyne says Slobodzian targets seniors and new immigrants and uses the court system to intimidate customers into paying money they don't owe.

"He just wants money, and what he does is he puts a bunch of these claims out hoping somebody pays him off … He takes advantage of the fact you can [sue for] up to $25,000 [in small claims court], and he's looking for someone to give him a couple of grand just to stop harassing them."

The neighbours in Barrhaven say they've learned a lesson.

"I trusted him and I shouldn't have. I don't blame anybody else but myself quite honestly," says McGuire.

Warning signs

Hanson says in hindsight, there were warning signs.

For example, Hanson and the other neighbours say Slobodzian never wanted to tell anyone his last name and instead called himself PJ. When Hanson wrote a $3,000 cheque Slobodzian asked that he not fill in his name because he had a special stamp at his office.

I think he gets enjoyment out of doing this. This is his fix.- George Hanson

A short time later Slobodzian returned the uncashed cheque and asked for cash.

(Fraud investigators have told CBC that con artists usually avoid putting money in bank accounts because they fear it will be seized by creditors, and because bank records can be used as evidence in prosecutions.)

Slobodzian has never responded to previous CBC stories about his conduct, and this time is no exception. A phone number he included on a court document was answered by a man who said it was a wrong number. Another number listed as belonging to Slobodzian was not answered despite repeated calls.

Lawyer Aaron Heard of Langevin Morris Smith confirms that Slobodzian is a client, but says he has had only minimal involvement in the cases and has received no instructions from Slobodzian about responding to the allegations contained in this story.

Building trades organizations have repeatedly warned that giving contractors large amounts of money up front is risky. 

Consumers are also advised to check with the Better Business Bureau's online registry before hiring anyone for construction or renovation work.

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