Sudbury

Four men, including 3 brothers, charged in major solar farm construction fraud

Ontario Provincial Police have charged three brothers from Sault Ste. Marie, and another man, in a multimillion-dollar fraud involving three government-funded solar energy projects across the province.

Clarida Construction was based in Sault Ste. Marie and run by three brothers

Detective Constable John Armit says the alleged fraud, believed to have taken place in 2012 and 2013, involved a family-run construction company who allegedly refused to pay subcontractors involved in the solar projects. (Susan Montoya Bryan/The Associated Press)

Ontario Provincial Police have charged three brothers from Sault Ste. Marie, and another man, in a multimillion-dollar fraud involving three government-funded solar energy projects across the province.

Detective Constable John Armit says the alleged fraud, believed to have taken place in 2012 and 2013, involved a family-run construction company that allegedly refused to pay subcontractors involved in the solar projects.

Armit declined to estimate the value of the alleged fraud, but a current member of the Ontario legislature pegged the total amount at roughly $21 million. 

The charges centre on a company known as Clarida Construction, which he says ceased operations in 2013.

Armit says Bruce, Bradley and Keith Clarida, as well as former company financial controller David Wood, are now each charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of false pretence or statement.

The four men are due to appear in a Milton courtroom on Jan. 27.

Armit said the solar projects, which were being funded by a green energy program implemented by the previous Liberal government, were located in various parts of the province. The three solar farms were due to be built in Lanark County near Ottawa, as well as near Odessa, Ont. and Temiskaming Shores, Ont.

Armit said Clarida Construction was based in Sault Ste. Marie,.Ont., though some of the men now facing charges have since relocated. 

When raising the matter before the Ontario legislature in July 2014, NDP legislator John Vanthof said the projects were initially welcomed by the communities where they were supposed to take shape.

According to a transcript of his remarks, the NDP legislator said the three solar wind farms were to be sold to TransCanada once completed. "When Clarida failed to pay the local contractors, the project touted as an economic boom turned into a nightmare," Vanthof said at the time, estimating that the unpaid bills totalled $21.3 million.

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