Wednesday was a bad day for Jeff Rabb.
In the morning, the former owner of one of the largest residential property management companies in the city was ordered to pay a total of $100,000 to the Manitoba Securities Commission and was barred for life from being registered with the commission.
Then, in the afternoon, he was sentenced by a provincial court judge to 12 months house arrest and another $20,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to criminal charges of false pretences over $5,000.
The penalties levelled at Rabb, 62, the former head of Winpark Dorchester Properties, were a result of a systematic scheme he orchestrated to divert monies earned by properties Rabb managed on behalf of third-party owners for his own benefit.
The criminal matter was specifically related to two properties and $92,000 worth of losses those investors suffered.
The joint sentencing recommendation by Crown attorney Peter Edgett and Rabb's lawyers Richard Wolson and Evan Roitenberg took into account the fact that Rabb had already paid restitution to the victims (save for one final payment of $20,000 that was made Wednesday).
Most of the false pretences described in court took place almost 10 years ago. Edgett listed several instances where Rabb had work done on his home, his girlfriend's residence and residences of employees, and then had some of those invoices charged as management costs to the two buildings in question, 586 and 605 River Ave.
Two victim-impact statements were read in court that underlined the stark breach of trust Rabb perpetrated on people he knew well in the community, including the parents of his next-door neighbour.
In his statement, Dr. Eric Vickar, who lived next to Rabb and whose parents invested in four of Rabb's buildings, said, "The hurt and outrage our family has experienced through this breach of trust is substantial and immeasurable."
Vickar said it was particularly distressing, because as a next-door neighbour he could see a sport court constructed in Rabb's backyard costing tens of thousands of dollars which, he said, "has come to light... was paid for in part by assets of our family and other co-owners of the 585 and 605 River Ave. buildings."
Michael Kay, another investor and victim of Rabb's false pretences, read both Vickar's statement and his own in court. Both of them said that irrespective of the financial damage suffered, they felt doubly wronged by Rabb because he has not accepted responsibility and continues to blame others.
Kay, who is a lawyer and the unofficial representative for the investors who were victimized by the misappropriation of funds, spent hundreds of hours over the course of five years helping to organize documents relevant to the Manitoba Securities Commission investigation, which was then also used by Winnipeg police to lay the charges.
Kay said he was devastated when he discovered the misappropriations and hurt, because he said Rabb has shown no remorse.
"We had a level of trust in Rabb and we were friendly with him and attended various life-cycle events (with him).... Rabb has blamed myself and my wife Glenna, on occasion, for the circumstances he now finds himself in," Kay said in court. "He has expressed to others that it is my fault that all of this has transpired and that if it wasn't for me he would not be charged, facing these court proceedings."
Rabb apologized openly in court Wednesday. Before he did, Wolson explained that the reason Rabb hadn't apologized previously is because Wolson advised him not to have any contact with the victims.
"This is a sad day for Jeff Rabb," Wolson said. "In 62 years he has done a lot of good, but his reputation has fallen greatly and his stock is very low."
Provincial court Judge Larry Allen said among the things Rabb should be thankful for was the fact that he had such good lawyers. He said were Rabb to have faced a slightly different charge — fraud — he would have had to spend time in jail, as opposed to serving house arrest.
Allen also warned Rabb to adhere strictly to the terms of sentence that include nightly curfews and abstinence from consumption or possession of alcohol and marijuana.
The securities commission ruling and court sentencing put an end to a matter that has been active for a decade.
While the criminal charges pertained only to $92,000 worth of misappropriations, the securities commission investigation found evidence that Rabb defrauded investors in about 50 buildings of more than $420,000 in revenue.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.