Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jorgenson in court over PST payments

Entrepreneur faces raft of legal challenges

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Internet pharmacy pioneer Daren Jorgenson has been charged with failing to pay provincial sales taxes for the shuttered Royal Albert Arms and his upscale hair salon, Vault Salon and Spa.

That's just the beginning of Jorgenson's legal troubles. He's also being sued by the Manitoba Labour Department for failing to pay staff wages, and he has an outstanding bill of $35,000 for not paying the 2010 property taxes for the Wellington Crescent home he bought from David Asper.

The only positive news for Jorgenson is that he appears to be close to ending a 13-year legal battle with his ex-wife over a divorce settlement.

Jorgenson will be in court this morning to deal with the sales-tax issue.

Manitoba Finance charged Jorgenson in the spring with two counts each of failing to file monthly tax returns and failing to submit the sales taxes he collected at the two businesses for a seven-month period from September 2010 to April 2011.

The city forced the closing of the popular Royal Albert at the end of May after a water line ruptured. Jorgenson refused to repair it, calling it a city responsibility. The city countered that by saying the break occurred on Jorgenson's property. The city offered to do the work and assess the cost on the property tax bill but Jorgenson refused to co-operate and the Royal Albert has remained closed.

Jorgenson has also been charged with failing to appear in court on Aug. 4 to deal with the finance charges. Winnipeg police arrested Jorgenson Aug. 24 on the failing to appear charge. He was subsequently released on a promise to appear.

Jorgenson is best known as a leader in Manitoba's Internet pharmacy industry during the mid-2000s, a business that made him wealthy. However, as Americans bought fewer drugs online, he pursued other business ventures, including the purchase of the Vault salon in the Exchange District.

Jorgenson would not make himself available for interviews this week.

A Manitoba Finance spokesman said details on the charges, including the outstanding amount it alleges Jorgenson owes, would not be disclosed outside of court.

Records at city hall show Jorgenson has not paid his 2010 property tax bill for the home he shares with Jasmine Wong, a former pharmacist who worked for Jorgenson but who is now manager of Vault. The total due, including a $440 penalty, is $35,659. That's on top of their 2011 property tax bill of $37,215.

Court records from Jorgenson's divorce case show he became involved with Wong about the same time he separated from his wife, Shannon Wentz-Jorgenson, in 1998.

The couple's divorce was finalized in 2002 but they've been fighting in court over the division of assets and custody issues.

Court records show the couple reached agreement in April of this year over custody of their two children and other financial matters. A case conference is set for later in October.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2011 B1

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