Ex-employees ask how convicted fraudster obtained pandemic support while their wages went unpaid

more than a dozen former workers of Rob Roche, a Canadian businessman with a controversial earlier, say they’re owed lots in wages. it’s the newest issue for a man with a globe-spanning trend of debt and deceit that stretches back 30 years, a CBC Information research has discovered.

The 63-12 months-vintage Roche has made a profession out of taking regulate of suffering businesses and stripping their property, earning himself the nickname “The Liquidator,” after he close down a series of 29 cut price stores in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the mid-nineteen nineties, throwing FOUR HUNDRED people out of work. 

Courtroom information and media coverage from B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, the U.K., France and Germany additionally display a trail of unpaid wages and debts, and reveal that over the course of the nineteen nineties and early 2000s, Roche used to be convicted of fraud on 4 other occasions, serving greater than a yr in prison.

the most recent controversy surrounds Roche’s present venture, Viridis AntisepticPro, a Toronto-based totally reseller of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and cleaning provides. Former employees say turnover used to be prime and getting paid was once difficult. Paydays have been regularly overlooked, and while remuneration did come, it used to be within the form of e-transfers from Roche’s non-public e-mail, steadily for less than a component to what was once owed. 

“I simply desired to be paid. All folks simply wanted to be paid,” mentioned Hayley O’Brien, who managed the company’s social media bills and helped recruit new staff throughout the spring and summer time of 2021. “i feel a lot people pushed a few of the behaviour aside as a result of we had been desperate for a job.”

O’Brien, 23, estimates she is owed no less than $1,500, but has discovered it arduous to arrive at an exact figure because the company did not provide pay stubs or a document of employment after she quit. 

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour confirmed it has logged 14 salary proceedings in opposition to the corporate considering April 2021, and has thus far issued 12 fee orders. One case used to be dropped and another continues to be beneath research.

Ex-employees ask how convicted fraudster obtained pandemic support while their wages went unpaid

Kevin Li was once employed by means of Roche to design internet sites for his companies within the summer time of 2021. He says he used to be most effective paid for considered one of the 2 months he labored, and is owed $3,000 to $FOUR,000. He stated whilst he tried to obtain the money, he used to be impulsively fired. (Albert Leung/CBC)

Kevin Li, an internet developer who constructed the company’s web page and controlled its IT, mentioned he was once paid for only half of the 8 weeks he labored for Roche, estimating he is owed between $3,000 and $FOUR,000. It was once the 26-12 months-vintage’s 2nd post-college activity.

“For a new graduate, it was moderately a large situation, and with none warning.… I had hassle paying my rent,” mentioned Li. “And for my colleagues who had families, it was a good larger challenge.”

Li said he stored urgent Roche for cost, only to be dispose of with excuses about bureaucracy and banking snafus. When he endured, he used to be impulsively fired. 

After CBC News first approached Roche for remark in early December, he filed a $164,000 defamation and breach of settlement suit in opposition to O’Brien in Ontario Awesome Court. She has engaged a lawyer and is seeking to have the case dropped.

The fee issues arose at a time while AntisepticPro and different Roche-owned corporations have been receiving financial give a boost to from the provincial and federal governments to the music of no less than $85,000. New hires have been routinely urged to apply for wage subsidies from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Skills And Coaching Development by way of a private employment products and services firm, VPI Operating Answers, in line with employees who spoke to CBC News.

AntisepticPro showed it received $SIXTEEN,000 in can provide for seven employees.

Another company, Viridis Belongings Control Corp., won a $20,000 Ontario COVID-19 small trade supply, even as a third company, Beagle AI Inc., which provides artificial intelligence instrument that scans legal documents for potential problems, seems to have won Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) support inside the pandemic. 

these kind of firms share the similar modest premises in an business park adjoining to Toronto’s Pearson airport.

Roche responds via video

Roche declined multiple requests for an interview over a length of several weeks, although he in the end spoke back to a few of the written questions submitted to him and equipped a brief video statement.

the two-minute video features Roche sitting in a boardroom, dressed in a masks, glasses and backward hat, flanked by means of people recognized as current staff. A bottle of hand sanitizer and a stuffed toy beagle are on the desk, even as the partitions are embellished with inspirational posters preaching a good perspective and integrity in business. 

“we are responding lately to claims from a small team of disgruntled workers which might be completely baseless and have zero benefit, with reference to unpaid wages from July to September of ultimate year,” Roche says within the video.

He then outlines a $NINE,000 compensation agreement that he says he will soon finish with the Ontario Ministry of Finance.

WATCH | Rob Roche responds to allegations of missing wages: 

Ex-employees ask how convicted fraudster obtained pandemic support while their wages went unpaid

Robert Roche responds to allegations of missing wages

FOUR hours ago

Duration 2:14

In a video observation to CBC Information, Canadian businessman Robert Roche responded to allegations of lacking wages by way of multiple workers. 2:14

Roche additional says he has asked the Canada Income Agency (CRA) to audit Beagle AI’s books “to turn out our transparency and to end up that every buck won beneath the wage subsidy program used to be paid out as wages.”

Roche did not reply to requests for documentation to make stronger his reimbursement agreement and audit claims. 

The Ontario Finance Ministry, which enforces cost orders, stated it won’t speak about the specifics of the case, and up to now, none of the affected employees have been knowledgeable of a deal. CRA additionally declined comment, citing taxpayer confidentiality.

Beagle AI used to be a extremely touted startup while it was once based in 2014 via a college of Toronto computer technology professor. However the company’s attract briefly pale and it used to be bancrupt by the time Roche took keep watch over in the summer time of 2019. 

Beagle’s company footprint has been onerous to parent; for a period last fall, the company did not even have a web site. A seek of LinkedIn unearths one profile of a present employee — a “casual, on-name” internet developer. When requested, former AntisepticPro staff recalled there being at such a lot, one or two Beagle team of workers in the place of business and scant company task.

All of which increases questions about how the company qualified for CEWS payouts.

Roche declined to respond to questions on the company, calling the collection of current workers a “non-public subject.” 

But inside files got by means of CBC News display Beagle AI won no less than $FORTY EIGHT,000 in CEWS subsidies, with the corporate claiming to have suffered a 70 in keeping with cent revenue drop while using FORTY FIVE other folks this earlier October.

String of shuttered businesses 

Roche appears to have began his career in Montreal, coming to prominence within the early ’90s in British Columbia and Ontario after shopping for and shuttering other home adorning retail chains, putting dozens of people out of labor. 

Deborah Faurot is one among greater than a half-dozen former staff of House Merchandise Inc. who filed courtroom claims in B.C. in opposition to Roche for unpaid wages. the previous promoting manager says she nonetheless hasn’t seen a penny of the $6,750 her ex-enterprise used to be ordered to pay in 1995.

“He’s alive, with out a conscience,” she stated from her home in Kelowna. “We had about 17 shops across Canada. This Roche man got here in, purchased up the company sooner or later, and went bankrupt the following.”

the story was once then repeated on a grander scale in 1995, with the Winnipeg-primarily based Stylerite chain of bargain shops.

CBC News requested Roche about his early investments and the nonetheless-unpaid employees. “Each companies were financially distressed before my involvement, no additional comment,” he wrote.

Ex-employees ask how convicted fraudster obtained pandemic support while their wages went unpaid

Toronto businessman Rob Roche earned the nickname ‘The Liquidator’ for his practice of acquiring suffering firms and shutting them down. However over the earlier 3 a long time, he has also left in the back of a trail of debt and unpaid wages. (Rob Roche/Seeking.com)

After his liberate from jail in 2001, Roche re-emerged in Europe in the late 2000s, first taking the helm of a U.K. wine-advertising and marketing company, then a sequence of failing pulp and paper companies in France, Belgium and Germany. There Were proceedings of unpaid wages and bills in the U.K.

In June 2010, simply as his German company declared insolvency, Roche staged a brief push to shop for a defunct paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. however the tentative deal fell aside over his demands for $52 million in loans and promises from the provincial govt. 

Plan to reopen N.L. paper mill scuttledNo urge for food for mill deal: finest

in the years considering, proceedings and online shopper opinions hyperlink Roche to a wide number of businesses in Ontario, including a trucking firm, a logistics corporate, a print store, a vocal coaching provider, a book publisher, environmental consulting, and Viagra gross sales from his Bay Side Road condominium. 

Among his other sidelines at present are an immigration consulting business. 

Plans to open an individual high school for in another country students on a defunct Royal Canadian Air Force training base near Exeter, Ont., appear to have been dealt a setback by way of COVID-19 restrictions and an ongoing lawsuit with the property’s former owner. 

Roche is also dealing with a court docket action from the Legislation Society of Ontario over public proceedings that he has been providing legal services with out skilled qualifications.

In reaction to questions about his previous legal troubles, Roche had little to say beyond asserting that in regards to 2 of his 4 fraud convictions — a 1991 Quebec case and one in Ontario in 2001 — “there was no monetary loss at all.”

‘No effects’

Former AntisepticPro workers O’Brien and Li each instructed CBC Information they were distressed to be told of Roche’s checkered previous.

“It makes me disenchanted that such a lot of folks had been taken benefit of and nothing’s truly come of it,” stated O’Brien. “there is no outcomes and there hasn’t in point of fact been an end to his behaviour.” 

However, Roche does have his defenders.

in the video he submitted to CBC News, a masked lady recognized simplest as Mary, the operations manager, is asked if Roche is a “just right CEO” by an off-digicam voice. 

“Sure, Rob is a perfect manager, leader and we now have amazing organizational skills within our corporate,” she replies, appearing to learn her resolution off a sheet of paper at the desk earlier than her.

the other individual the video — known as Fidel Hamdan, an investor and shareholder — then chimes in with his standpoint.

“i know the phrases can describe how just right Rob is with us and how truthful and faithful,” he says.

Jonathon Gatehouse can be contacted by means of e-mail at [email protected], or reached by the use of the CBC’s digitally encrypted Securedrop machine.

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