Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Investors, credit union involved in lawsuits

Cheque-kiting scheme snared friend, relatives

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A quintet of investors is hoping to sue the Assiniboine Credit Union for its role in an elaborate cheque-kiting scandal that resulted in a now-defunct Winnipeg company getting millions of dollars of unauthorized loans.

But it's not so much the amount they want to sue for that's interesting -- a total of $245,000 -- but their bloodlines.

Karen Wolinsky (looking to sue for $100,000), Joyce Rothman ($100,000), Catherine Dyck ($25,000), Lee Pesochin ($10,000) and Jon Pesochin ($10,000), are all close relatives of David Wolinsky, former chairman of Protos International and Maple Leaf Distillers.

All five claim to have known nothing about Astra Credit Union's role in the cheque-kiting scheme, which occurred from 2004 to 2006, until news reports came out last April that fraud charges against Wolinsky, two other employees of Protos and one executive with ACU, had been dismissed. Astra subsequently merged into Assiniboine Credit Union.

If this seems like a long time to file court documents after allegedly being wronged, it is. The limitation for such a claim is six years but there is a legal provision that allows people to apply to the court to sue within one year or learning the material facts of a case that could cause one to sue.

"This is a preliminary proceeding for these people; they need to go this permission route," said their lawyer, Dave Hill.

Hill said Protos and Maple Leaf executives, primarily Wolinsky and former CEO Costas Ataliotis, targeted acquaintances, friends and relatives to invest in the companies. Among them were former Winnipeg Jet and current city councillor Thomas Steen and his ex-wife, Mona.

In another case arising out of the same credit union activity, David Wolinsky, Clarke Culbertson (a former manager with Astra), and Protos employees David Mollins and Barry Milne are suing Assiniboine Credit Union and former executives and directors for "malicious" prosecution.

Lawyer Robert Tapper, who is representing the four, said the story ACU staff members told the police about the cheque-kiting was "palpably false."

"The credit union was well aware of what was going on and the fact that it was making a pile of money (from transactions and interest charges). The effect of these events on the lives, incomes and careers (of my clients) was devastating. Their lives were absolutely destroyed by these baseless charges," Tapper said.

Lawyer Stuart Blake, who is representing ACU, said both actions are "without merit and will be defended."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 B2

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