Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Former Bomber arrested in B.C. on fraud, forgery charges

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A former Winnipeg Blue Bomber has been arrested by RCMP in B.C. and returned to Winnipeg to face a raft of fraud, theft and forgery charges relating in part to an allegedly bogus scheme to construct a hotel and recreational facility in Fort Whyte.

David Lorne Pitcher, 46, was arrested by Vernon RCMP Wednesday morning on the strength of a Canada-wide warrant commercial crime unit investigators obtained earlier this month. The warrant was endorsed by a Manitoba Justice fraud prosecutor, court records show.

Pitcher faces 26 charges, including several of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000 dating back to January 2006.

One charge relates to Pitcher's alleged defrauding of B.C.-based investor Dan McCrea and Alberta-based Theresa McCrea Investments. RCMP allege Pitcher bilked them out of more than $5 million between Jan. 1, 2007 and Jan. 30, 2012.

These complainants are the same ones currently suing Pitcher in the Court of Queen's Bench, alleging he used forged government documents to borrow millions of dollars in bridge financing from them through a company called Community Endowment Funds Inc.

According to the lawsuit, the money was borrowed for the construction of a large recreational development known as the Flatland Cable Park, to be located on a 68-acre swath of Fort Whyte. McRae alleges Pitcher claimed he was getting a total of $21 million from Ottawa, but delays prevented him from repaying the bulk of the loans. Of the $7.1 million paid out, Pitcher claims only $2.3 million was repaid and is suing for the return of the remainder.

Among the forged documents RCMP now claim to have evidence of are letters held out to be from the City of Winnipeg purportedly signed by ex-Chief Administrative Officer Phil Sheegl.

Pitcher "did knowingly" use a forged letter between December 2010 and December 2012 with the City of Winnipeg letterhead that was held out as being written by Sheegl regarding the Flatland Cable Park, "commonly known as the snow dump," as if it were genuine, RCMP allege.

Another fake letter, also proffered to be signed by Sheegl, was used by Pitcher in September 2010, RCMP say.

It was around this same period that Pitcher also used forged documents purporting to be written by Manitoba NDP minister Gord Mackintosh and John McBride, the head of federal Crown corporation PPP Canada (public-private partnership), RCMP allege.

Another victim of Pitcher's frauds, RCMP allege, was George Robert Harms, a friend of Dan McCrea's and accountant who has filed an extensive affidavit in connection with the civil case.

Harms claims to have uncovered proof David Pitcher concocted a story that the federal government was prepared to finance the Flatland Cable Park project.

Harms, who admits setting Pitcher up with the investors, said he learned in January the Winnipeg law firm Tapper Cuddy was not working for Pitcher, as Pitcher told him. One of the firm's lawyers said they weren't working for Pitcher and had not sent him emails about their work to secure the federal funding.

"After receiving this information from (the Tapper Cuddy lawyer), I had direct evidence for the first time that David (Pitcher) had been providing... fraudulent and/or forged documentation to procure (loans)," Harms stated in his affidavit.

Harms said after realizing the emails from Pitcher's lawyers were fake, he tried to verify the funding Pitcher claimed he had been promised from the federal government.

Harms said he received written responses, which he included as part of his affidavit, that the federal officials Pitcher claimed he had been dealing with either did not exist or, if they did exist, they had no dealings with Pitcher.

RCMP have not commented on Pitcher's arrest. The Free Press has requested comment.

All allegations against Pitcher, a former CFL slotback in the 1990s for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Blue Bombers, have not been proven.

He remained in custody as of Thursday morning and had yet to make a bail application.

Pitcher and his wife, Twila, have each filed statements of defence in connection to the ongoing civil lawsuit and deny wrongdoing.

That case was adjourned indefinitely by Justice Perry Schulman on Sept. 16.

Pitcher denies involvement in any fraud or that McCrea and the investment firm were to be repaid from federal funds.

Pitcher said McCrea made the loans "because of the potential business opportunities" in the hotel project and the "favourable financial terms."

Pitcher said he pursued the Flatlands Cable Park project in good faith, negotiating with the City of Winnipeg and a private landowner, and hired contractors and an architect.

--With files from Aldo Santin


Updated on Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 4:02 PM CST: Corrects spelling of Dan McCrea.

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