Winnipeg Free Press
A former Winnipeg Blue Bomber has been sentenced to six years in prison for running one of the biggest frauds ever uncovered in Manitoba.
David Lorne Pitcher, 46, admitted to a slew of fraud and forgery charges relating to a bogus operation to build a hotel and recreational facility. He pleaded guilty last year to 17 offences in which victims lost more than $5 million from 2007 to 2012. More than $12 million was collected.
Pitcher, originally from Armstrong, returned to court Thursday, where Crown and defence lawyers made the joint-recommendation for the lengthy penitentiary sentence.
“I wish to express to all the people I have harmed my deepest apologies,” Pitcher said in a statement to the court. “It was never my intention to be here. I was hoping to create a positive end for all involved.”
Pitcher was ordered to repay the outstanding money.
Pitcher is a former CFL slotback who played in the 1990s for the Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Court was told he started with good intentions, hoping to raise enough money to help keep disadvantaged youth.
“He was a football player, a star, someone people would look up to,” provincial court Judge Cynthia Devine said. “This thing turned in on itself, it became clear the dream wouldn’t pan out. It started as a dream and ended as a nightmare.”
Pitcher admitted to using forged government documents to scam millions in bridge financing through his company, Community Endowment Funds Inc. Some of the forged documents were purporting to be written by Manitoba cabinet minister Gord Mackintosh and John McBride, the head of PPP Canada, a federal Crown corporation.
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 part of Fort Whyte. Pitcher convinced investors he had federal funding, but also needed additional money to float the project. He used the money for his own personal interests. Pitcher admitted to running a huge Ponzi scheme.
“There’s an irony that through his actions he was looking (initially) to prevent crime,” Crown attorney Don Melnyk said.
Many of the victims submitted powerful impact statements describing both the massive breach of trust and financial losses they have suffered. It’s unlikely many of them will get their money back because court was told Pitcher won’t likely have the income to fulfil the restitution order.
“I hope, over time, some of the damage I’ve caused can be undone,” Pitcher said Thursday.
Pitcher had no prior criminal record. He was arrested in early 2014 by RCMP in Vernon and returned to Winnipeg. He is also being sued by the victims in Court of Queen’s Bench. In his statement of defence in that proceeding, he denied wrongdoing.