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Toronto man denies conspiring with Marvel CEO in alleged hate mail scheme

A Toronto man accused of conspiring with the head of Marvel Entertainment in a bizarre hate mail campaign against his wealthy former employer has denied any role in the alleged scheme.

Prolonged legal feud between Harold Peerenboom and Isaac Perlmutter takes another turn

Toronto businessman Harold Peerenboom, left, alleges a dispute with Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, right, over the management of shared tennis courts at their Florida condo complex sparked a hate mail campaign against him. This illustration is from a CBC profile of the case that was published back in November. (Philip Street/CBC)

A Toronto man accused of conspiring with the head of Marvel Entertainment in a bizarre hate mail campaign against his wealthy former employer has denied any role in the alleged scheme.

David Smith, along with Marvel CEO Isaac (Ike) Perlmutter, is the target of a slander lawsuit launched earlier this year by Canadian businessman Harold Peerenboom.

Now Smith — a former employee of Peerenboom's Toronto-based executive search firm, Mandrake Management — has filed a motion to dismiss the U.S. civil suit.

It's the latest development in the years-long legal battle between Peerenboom and Perlmutter, a notoriously reclusive American billionaire and personal friend of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The hate mail campaign, which ran between 2012 to 2015, saw anonymous letters falsely accusing Peerenboom of being a child molester, murderer and anti-Semite sent to the businessman's friends, family, colleagues and neighbours in Toronto.

Perlmutters denied accusations

Letters were also sent to fellow residents of a condo complex in Sloan's Curve, Palm Beach, Fla., where both Peerenboom and Perlmutter own homes. Peerenboom alleges a dispute with Perlmutter over the management of its shared tennis courts sparked the hate mail campaign.

Peerenboom, shown here in another photo illustration, has also filed legal action against Toronto resident and former employee David Smith. Peerenboom claims Smith was a 'willing scapegoat' in the hate mail campaign — something Smith denies. (Philip Street/CBC)

Peerenboom previously filed a separate civil suit against the Marvel magnate and his wife, Laura, claiming they were the architects of the campaign.

The Perlmutters have denied the accusations and counter-sued Peerenboom, accusing him of stealing their DNA samples while they were giving testimony at a deposition hearing in Florida — all part of Peerenboom's plan, they claim, to try and prove they were connected to the slanderous letters.

Peerenboom alleges that Smith, at some point, connected with the Perlmutters, who involved him in the hate mail scheme. (Peerenboom's company, Mandrake, has also filed a $25-million lawsuit against Smith, claiming he violated the terms of a settlement agreement after he was fired.)

Earlier this month, Smith's Florida-based lawyer filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of jurisdiction, arguing the allegations do not reveal that Smith did anything to harm Peerenboom in the state.

In an attached affidavit, Smith denies the allegations levelled against him by his former boss.

In the document, Smith says he has never "met, spoken with or otherwise communicated with [Isaac] Perlmutter or Laura Perlmutter."

Perlmutter is a notoriously reclusive billionaire, as well as a personal friend of U.S. President Donald Trump. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

He also says in the document that he never "participated in a conspiracy, or acted in concert with them … or any other persons, in a hate mail campaign to defame or fame or otherwise harm the plaintiff."

In the original claim against Smith, Peerenboom contends his former employee was a "willing scapegoat" in the alleged scheme orchestrated by the Perlmutters "in the event that the anonymity of his co-conspirators was breached."

Smith agreed to participate in return for payment, the suit alleges.

None of the allegations in either suit have been proven in court. 

Didn't agree to 'be used as a scapegoat'

In his signed affidavit, Smith denies he agreed to "be used as a scapegoat" or arranged for payment. 

Smith's alleged ties to the hate mail campaign came after U.S. customs agents in Detroit intercepted a suspicious package in 2016 that included four pre-addressed, postage-paid letters and three sets of latex gloves. The package had been en route from a UPS store in Toronto to one in Florida; two letters were addressed to Peerenboom's wife, Robin, at the couple's residences in Palm Beach and Toronto.

The two others were addressed to Mandrake employees.

The letters were similar to other letters that had been previously sent out against Peerenboom, and said that if Peerenboom didn't leave Palm Beach, the letter writer would send other letters claiming Peerenboom was a child molester to prisoners across North America.

"These letters invite the convict to come visit your husband — they provide your address here in Florida and Canada," one letter addressed to Robin Peerenboom read. "Be a good mother and sell your place here on Sloan's Curve."

Peerenboom is the founder of Toronto-based executive search firm Mandrake Management. (mandrake.ca)

According to Peerenboom's claim, Smith's name is listed as recipient on the package's shipping label, as is his cellphone number. The claim also alleges a video recording by UPS store security shows Smith mailing a package. 

Smith was charged in June 2017 with extortion, forgery and criminal harassment. Those charges were later stayed. Smith signed a $500 peace bond and was ordered not to have any contact with Peerenboom — directly or indirectly.

Yet in his affidavit, Smith denies he had anything to do with the mailing of those letters, or that he ever entered a UPS store in Canada or the U.S. to mail or receive a package.

Smith also says in the document that he was wrongfully arrested in Canada, and that the stayed criminal charges will be dropped in the fall. 

None of the lawyers for Peerenboom, the Perlmutters or Smith would comment on Smith's motion to dismiss or affidavit. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gollom

Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

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