Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City investigates forged approval

Fraud alleged on three engineer's seals

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Whoever forged an engineer's seal of approval on three Winnipeg properties could be charged with fraud or fined up to $20,000.

A recent report revealed the city revoked three of Hollywood Homes Inc.'s building permits for properties on Pritchard Avenue, Bowman Avenue and Chevrier Boulevard after officials discovered submitted drawings were deliberately altered to indicate they were approved by an engineer.

Hollywood Homes Inc. owner Dave Haner alleged he purchased the blueprints with a false engineering seal from a city building inspector, prompting an internal city investigation into the matter. The allegations have not been proven.

Engineering regulators say allegations of fraud are rare, but can result in stiff penalties or even jail time.

Michael Gregoire, a professional standards officer for Manitoba's Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists, said any engineer whose seal has been used without his or her permission can pursue fraud charges under the Criminal Code.

The regulatory body can also take court action if it receives a copy of the forged documents, which could result in fines up to $10,000 for the perpetrator's first offence and up to $20,000 for the second offence, Gregoire said. Alternatively, the body can seek an injunction against an individual who falsifies an engineer's seal of approval.

While there is no immediate penalty, Gregoire said the individual will go to jail if the person ever commits the fraud again.

"When somebody has falsified a document in that manner it's a clear violation," Gregoire said.

To date, no one in Manitoba has been convicted of falsifying an engineer's seal. That's partly because the allegations are difficult to prove, Gregoire said, though there have been a handful of cases prosecuted elsewhere in Canada.

He would not comment on the specific case involving Hollywood Homes.

In late December, the city ordered Hollywood Homes to obtain a new building permit for all three properties in question.

If Hollywood Homes fails to comply, the City of Winnipeg will bring the properties into compliance, which may include demolishing them. Two of the properties are currently occupied by families who worry their homes could be torn down due to a problem with the builder's original permit.

The orders are on hold, pending the outcome of the city's investigation into Haner's allegations.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2013 B2

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