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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Maria Aragon's manager facing fraud charges

Posted: 12/28/2013 1:00 AM

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Nowack  speaks with  Maria Aragon during a recent recording  session  in Winnipeg.

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Nowack speaks with Maria Aragon during a recent recording session in Winnipeg. Photo Store

The Toronto manager guiding YouTube sensation Maria Aragon's fledgling music career is facing charges of defrauding five clients of more than $7 million.

Steven Joshua Nowack, 50, was arrested at his Toronto home in trendy Forest Hills in late October and charged with five counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of uttering forged documents. Toronto police and the Ontario Securities Commission's Joint Serious Offences Team began their investigation in August after a complaint from a resident.

As a foreign currency trader, Nowack had access to a pool of investors' funds in excess of $40 million between October 2009 and last July. Toronto police allege he never returned the invested money, despite claiming there were large profits made.

"The allegations are totally unfounded," Nowack told the Free Press. "They are not true. I'll be defending myself vigorously."

Nowack is also the CEO of the independent label S Records, who discovered the then 10-year-old Filipina Aragon. He saw her singing at a Gap Kids outlet in Toronto after Aragon's homemade YouTube video singing Lady Gaga's Born This Way went viral and became 2011's eighth most viewed video in the world. Late that year, he flew to Winnipeg and signed Maria, who is still awaiting the release of her first album.

"These accusations have nothing to do with my music business or Maria's career," he says. "There is no relation, none."

Nowack didn't immediately tell the family about his legal problems, but Maria's father, Veni, learned of them from a phone call from Canadian guitarist virtuoso Liona Boyd, who a year ago recorded a video with Maria called My Special Christmas Present Is You. A dispute between Boyd and Nowack forced the latter to take the video down from his music website.

"Liona told us what happened to Steven and said we must avoid Steven because he is not a good person," says Veni, who assembles tractors at MacDON Industries.

He then went to the Internet and found the police statement and was shocked at what he read, he said. Veni returned to the police website about 10 times to be sure it was Nowack in the police mugshot.

In November in Winnipeg, Veni decided to confront Nowack. He questioned the manager about whether he had something to tell him.

"He didn't seem to want to tell me so I said, 'Steven, look into my eyes, are you not going to be telling me something?'" he said during an interview this week. "Then Steven asked if we could go outside to talk. We went to my garage and sat in my car and he told me."

Veni, a devout Catholic, chose not to believe that Nowack was guilty and decided he could continue overseeing his daughter's musical breakthrough. Maria lost one appearance because of her association with Nowack.

"I can't judge people," says Veni. "It's only God who can judge people. All I know (is) he is doing well for my child. As long as he is doing his job, I'm OK with this."

kevin.prokosh@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2013 G9

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