Toronto·CBC Investigates

They abused horses. Now they're accused of stiffing snow removal clients

Three members of a Greater Toronto Area family who were convicted in a high-profile animal abuse case — one of whom was previously found guilty of fraud — are now accused of taking customers' money and not fulfilling snow clearing contracts.

CBC News was told the Smalls don't operate the firm. Customers, records suggest otherwise

Jason Small, far left with sunglasses, his mother Victoria Small, middle with brimmed hat, and her husband David Small, right in pink shirt are seen during court proceedsings in 2019. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Three members of a Greater Toronto Area family who were convicted in a high-profile animal abuse case — one of whom was previously found guilty of fraud — are now accused of taking customers' money and not fulfilling snow clearing contracts.

CBC Toronto spoke with three people who said they paid between $425 and $800 for snow removal this winter. They said they've received little or no service, have demanded refunds but haven't received any money, and have had trouble getting in touch with the business.

The company operates under the names Speedsport and S&S Property Maintenance. All three customers told CBC News the business put advertising lawn signs on their properties as soon as they signed contracts.

Harry Saberi, one of the Speedsport snow removal customers, says the only time the company came to his home north of Toronto in Aurora, Ont., was last month — and the snow was only partly cleared.

"It's not about the money. Emotionally, I'm hurt," Saberi said.

Speedsport customer Penny Wang says this advertising sign was put on her property after she signed a contract with the company. (Supplied/Penny Wang)

Although a man who identified himself on the phone to CBC News as the operator of the company denied it, corporation records, banking documents and photos suggest the three family members sentenced in the horse cruelty case operate the business. 

In 2019, David and Victoria "Vicki" Small, along with their son Jason Small, each pleaded guilty to one count of permitting an animal to be in distress. They were sentenced to 45 days in jail and fined $1,000. The case centred on the family's company, Speedsport Stables, which operated in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont., about 50 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

In 2013, David Small was convicted of fraud, sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay $1,400 in restitution.

After CBC Toronto reached out to Speedsport, a man who would identify himself only as Jay Lateen — he wouldn't provide the spelling of his last name —  said he's the owner of the snow clearing company, adding he knows the Small family but they don't operate the business. 

When asked why the company didn't fulfil its contracts, refund customers their money or return their calls, he said those were "false statements." 

"I do not feel I'm hard to get a hold of, nor do I have difficulty if something is wrong, refunding somebody their money."

'Somebody has to stop them'

Saberi, 73, owns a family restaurant in Aurora and paid Speedsport $800 to clear his and his elderly neighbour's driveways for the winter season.

His daughter found the company on Kijiji and Saberi said two men came to his restaurant in November to drop off a contract and pick up a cheque. They also ate lunch.

But Saberi said the company didn't clear either driveway.

Harry Saberi holds up his contract with Speedsport. He says he's more upset about the principle than losing $800. (Angelina King/CBC)

"I wait, wait, wait, wait but they didn't come," he said. 

Saberi said they finally did show up after he called a few times and demanded they come following the major blizzard on Jan. 17. But they left so much snow his wife still couldn't get her vehicle out of the garage and his neighbour's driveway wasn't cleared at all.

"It is not nice," Saberi said. "Somebody has to stop them."

His daughter filed a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and Kijiji.

Saberi's driveway in Aurora, Ont. He paid Speedsport $800 to clear his and his neighbour's driveways this winter. He says they cleared part of his property once and didn't clear his neighbour's. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Speedsport was registered in November 2021 by Vicki Swartman, according to Ontario corporation records. S&S Property Maintenance doesn't appear to be registered. CBC News has seen two e-transfers from a Speedsport customer that were accepted by Vicki Swartman. 

An online obituary for a relative of Vicki Small's indicates Small's maiden name is Swartman.

Not only do corporation records and e-transfers suggest the Smalls are behind Speedsport and S&S Property Maintenance, customers also said they recognized the Smalls after CBC News showed them photographs of them.

After Saberi was shown photos of David and Jason Small, he told CBC News they were the two men who came to his restaurant to drop off the contract and eat lunch. Saberi said David Small told him his name was Jay.

A second customer was shown the same photos. While she wasn't as certain, she said they resembled the two men who came to her home. She said she spoke with a person named David over the phone and a person named Jay via email.

Meanwhile, a former landlord of the Small family, Michael Cheung, a CBC reporter who previously spoke with David Small and Saberi all said they recognized Lateen's voice as David Small's. 

Although the man who identified himself as Lateen on the phone was adamant he is not David Small, he did say he occasionally hires Jason Small to do work for him.

In response to evidence that David, Victoria and Jason Small operate the company, the man said: "Until I look at it and read blogs, I don't know."

He said he will refund Saberi his money this week. But he also said he would "question" Saberi recognizing David and Jason Small as the men who came to his restaurant. He said David Small is too ill to go anywhere.

"I am not wanting to drag David down any further than he is … He has been nothing but good to me."

CBC attempted to contact Victoria and Jason Small, but did not receive a response. 

'I was one of the victims'

Penny Wang also signed a contract with Speedsport last fall and e-transferred nearly $700 for snow removal at two of her properties in Toronto and Newmarket, Ont.

In a Kijiji message to Wang, someone with the screen name Jay said the company has 37 crews that generally clear the property within two hours after the snow has stopped. Wang asked for the company's address and was provided with one that doesn't exist. She doesn't believe snow was ever cleared from either of her properties.

After no one showed up after the Jan. 17 storm, she told the company she was cancelling the contract and asked for a partial refund, but hasn't heard back. She said after doing some research and concluding the Smalls were the ones operating the company, she feared she would never get her refund.

A photo of Penny Wang's front stairs and driveway in Toronto on Jan. 18, the morning after a major blizzard. (Supplied/Penny Wang)

"Of course, I was very upset. Not because of the amount [of money], but because there are people out there like that, and I was one of the victims," she told CBC News.

 She's since contacted police in Toronto and York Region.

"I feel like there should be some kind of justice."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angelina King is a reporter with CBC Toronto where she covers a wide range of topics. She has a particular interest in crime, justice issues and human interest stories. Angelina started her career in her home city of Saskatoon where she spent much of her time covering the courts. You can contact her at angelina.king@cbc.ca or @angelinaaking

With files from Nikita Zhang

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