A former Langley businessman being sentenced for a $6 million fraud threw blame on his former partner and pleaded for a light sentence in a Surrey courtroom on Monday.
Matthew Brooks was once the owner of Aggressive Roadbuilders, a major paving firm that undertook projects in Langley, Surrey, and other Lower Mainland communities in the early and mid-2000s.
But in 2008, Aggressive collapsed into bankruptcy after Scotiabank uncovered fraud on a $7 million line of credit it had loaned the firm.
Brooks and his business partner were charged in 2014. Brooks pleaded guilty earlier this year.
Crown Brian McKinley said the line of credit was based on using Aggressive’s accounts receivable – work they had done but not yet been paid for – as collateral.
The bank trusted Aggressive could pay its loans because the company was already owed money by Surrey, Langley, or other municipalities.
But for some time in 2008, Aggressive created fraudulent reports for the bank.
“They exaggerated those numbers,” McKinley said.
In some cases, amounts Aggressive claimed it was owed couldn’t be matched to any known contract or work.
“In may be that those amounts were just made up,” McKinley said.
The scheme unravelled quickly in the summer of 2008, when the bank called in specialists and accountants and asked for a complete accounting from Brooks.
The bulk of more than $6 million borrowed from Scotiabank was actually used to pay back an earlier series of loans from RBC. Scotiabank recovered a little more than $400,000 during bankruptcy proceedings.
“The Crown was not able to determine what happened to the money,” McKinley said.
But Brooks himself suggested a partial answer when he went off-script during his statement to the judge at the end of the hearing.
Brooks suggested lawyers should ask his co-accused, Kirk Roberts, the former controller-bookkeeper of Aggressive.
“Ask where the missing money is, and who his business partners are,” Brooks said.
Throughout the hearing, there were references to threats and intimidation made against Brooks, including an incident in 2011 in which his Langley home was the target of a drive by shooting. His pre-sentence report also mentions a “criminal organization.”
McKinley noted that the talk of threats against Brooks was “nebulous.”
“They’re hard to pin down,” McKinley said. “We don’t know for certain who or why, or if they’re related to the offense,” he said. He noted some of the threats and incidents took place long before criminal charges were laid.
He also disagreed that prison would be more dangerous for Brooks due to any threats, noting that Corrections Canada houses enemies even at the same prison at times.
Brooks’ lawyer Stephanie Head asked for a conditional sentence order for Brooks, which would amount to house arrest. Failing that, she asked for no more than three years.
She said her client is a lifeline for one of his sons, Riley, who has a cognitive disability and has dealt with drug addiction.
“I fear that without me in his life, he will fall further into self-destruction,” Brooks said.
Another of Brooks’ sons, Hudson, was 20 two years ago when he was shot and killed by Surrey RCMP officers; an IIO report was sent to Crown to consider whether charges are warranted against any officers involved.
Brooks presently works for a landscaping company and lives either in a trailer or with friends and family.
“To all intents and purposes, Mr. Brooks has lost everything,” Head said.
McKinley called for a sentence of between four and six years in prison.
The judge is set to hand down a sentence on Oct. 31. The trial of Brooks’ co-accused Roberts is set to begin on Nove. 20 in New Westminster.