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Former CFL player arrested in Vernon
Winnipeg Free Press
An ex-Winnipeg Blue Bomber faces a slew of fraud, theft and forgery charges relating in part to an allegedly bogus scheme to build a hotel and recreational facility in Fort Whyte.
David Lorne Pitcher, 46, was arrested by Vernon, B.C., RCMP Wednesday morning and returned to Winnipeg on the strength of a Canada-wide warrant Manitoba investigators obtained earlier this month.
Pitcher faces 26 charges, including several of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000 dating back to January 2006.
One charge relates to Pitcher’s alleged bilking of B.C.-based investor Dan McCrea and Alberta-based Theresa McCrea Investments.
Commercial crime investigators suspect Pitcher defrauded more than $5 million from them between 2007 and early 2012.
These complainants are the same ones currently suing Pitcher in the Court of Queen’s Bench, alleging he used forged government documents to borrow millions of dollars in bridge financing from them through a company called Community Endowment Funds Inc.
“It’s long anticipated,” said Harvey Slobodzian, lawyer for the plaintiffs, on Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, the money was borrowed for the construction of a large recreational development known as the Flatland Cable Park, to be located on a 27.5 -hectare swath of Fort Whyte.
McCrea alleges Pitcher claimed he was getting a total of $21 million from Ottawa, but delays prevented him from repaying the bulk of the loans. Of the $7.1 million paid out, Pitcher claims only $2.3 million was repaid and is suing for the return of the remainder.
Among the forged documents, RCMP now claim to have evidence of letters alleged to be from the City of Winnipeg purportedly signed by ex-chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl.
Police also allege Pitcher used forged documents purporting to be written by Manitoba NDP minister Gord Mackintosh and John McBride, the head of federal Crown corporation PPP Canada.
Another victim of Pitcher’s frauds, RCMP allege, was George Robert Harms, a friend of McCrea’s and an accountant who has filed an extensive affidavit in connection with the civil case. Harms claims in a sworn statement to have uncovered proof Pitcher concocted a story the federal government was prepared to finance the Flatland Cable Park project.
The allegations against Pitcher, a former CFL slotback in the 1990s for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Blue Bombers, have not been proven.
He remained in custody as of Thursday morning and had not yet made a bail application.
RCMP did not respond Thursday to a request for comment or an interview with investigators.
Pitcher has filed a statement of defence in connection to the ongoing civil lawsuit and denies wrongdoing.
That case was adjourned indefinitely by Justice Perry Schulman on Sept. 16.
Slobodzian said the lawsuit is currently hung up by bankruptcy proceedings, which triggered a potential stay of the civil case. McCrea is moving to set it aside and press on.
Slobodzian suspected the bankruptcy filings were precipitated by the RCMP investigation.
“When it’s an investigation of this nature, the RCMP seem to work in tandem with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency),” the lawyer said.
Pitcher denies involvement in any fraud or that McCrea and the investment firm were to be repaid from federal funds.
Pitcher said McCrea made the loans because of the potential business opportunities in the hotel project and “favourable financial terms.”
Pitcher said he pursued the Flatlands Cable Park project in good faith, negotiating with the City of Winnipeg and a private landowner, and hired contractors and an architect.