Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Entrepreneur's funding tale false, accountant says

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Details are emerging in court documents about the $4.8-million fraud a city entrepreneur allegedly committed against a group of investors.

In an affidavit filed recently in court, an accountant and friend of B.C.-based investor Dan McCrae said he found proof David Pitcher concocted a story that the federal government was prepared to finance a hotel and year-round recreation complex in the Fort Whyte area.

George Harms, who admitted hooking 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.

McCrae and an Alberta-based investment fund, Teresa McCrae Investments Inc., initiated legal action in the spring against Pitcher, his wife Twila Pitcher, and Pitcher's company, the Community Endownment Fund Inc., alleging Pitcher used forged documents to convince them to provide more than $7 million in bridge financing for the hotel and recreation complex.

McCrae alleged Pitcher claimed he was getting a total of $21 million from Ottawa, but a series of delays prevented him from repaying the bulk of the loans.

McCrae said Pitcher repaid only $2.3 million and McCrae wants the court to award him the outstanding $4.8 million. He also wants the proceeds from the recent sale of the Pitchers' Kingston Row home and an audit to see how Pitcher used the loan money and to determine if any of it was given to Twila Pitcher.

The Pitchers filed statements of defence denying the allegations. David Pitcher denied any fraud had occurred or that the loans were to be repaid from federal funds. He said McCrae made the loans because of the profit they were going to make on the deal.

Twila Pitcher denied any knowledge of her husband's business dealings and said the couple purchased their home and did any renovations with her own funds.

Twila Pitcher refused to comment on Harms' affidavit. David Pitcher could not be reached for comment and his lawyer did not return a call from the Free Press.

Harms said David Pitcher had no income other than the project he was working on, and alleged Twila Pitcher had been unemployed before 2010, when she became executive director of the Manitoba Cycling Association.

Harms said after Pitcher received the bridge financing, $360,000 was spent by David and Twila Pitcher on personal purchases and extensive renovations to a Lake of the Woods cottage and their Kingston Row home, both of which have been recently sold. The Pitchers also discharged a $350,000 mortgage.

The proceeds from the sale of the family home, about $141,000, is locked up in a trust account pending the resolution of the case.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2012 B2

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