When Angie Zubrin and her husband wanted to invest for their future a couple of years ago, they thought they couldn't go wrong with real estate.
And when good friends of theirs had done well flipping properties through David Douglas, they thought they had hit upon the perfect situation.
Douglas advertised seminars that promised building wealth through real estate and asked, "Want to quit your day job?"
Ultimately, things could not have gone worse.
They signed on with him and agreed to fund some renovations on a River Heights house near the corner of Ash Street and Academy Road. The renovations were to be done by a Douglas-affiliated company.
But as soon as they refinanced their mortgage (through another one of Douglas's, companies, Abacus), things started to go south. First, they discovered the house was in the name of one of Douglas's former employees. Then they got an invoice for an extra $150,000 they hadn't expected.
"It was all supposed to be so very easy. David explained it to us. He already had the house, we just had to front the cost for the renovations," she said.
"It's a spiderweb of mystery like you would not believe."
The renovations started in the spring of 2012 but came to a halt a few months later without any explanation. Zubrin was making payments to Manitoba Hydro and couldn't understand why she was receiving credits. She was soon told unless the house mortgage was in her name or her husband's name, Hydro wouldn't accept payments.
She said Douglas pointed to the contract they had with him, which stipulated that if they didn't make such payments, they would be defaulted. The house has now been foreclosed.
Douglas is at the centre of an investigation by the Manitoba Securities Commission. Doug Brown, director of legal and enforcement at the MSC, said the number of consumer complaints regarding Douglas has increased "significantly" of late but he couldn't confirm how many people may be out money or how much may have been lost.
"Some of the people coming forward today have lost their homes," he said.
Douglas is registered as a real estate broker but his registration as a mortgage broker lapsed earlier this year, Brown said.
Efforts to reach Douglas on Tuesday were not successful.
Zubrin said once things went off the rails, phone calls and emails to Douglas went unreturned.
Zubrin said she and her husband are living a different kind of life than they were a couple of years ago.
"Disney World is out, so is any kind of extra fun and entertainment," she said.
"I just can't believe with all the legitimate companies out there that I ended up with the rotten egg," she said.