A Langley roadbuilder was in court in New Westminster Thursday as lawyers argued over his level of responsibility for a $6-million bank fraud.
Kirk Roberts pleaded guilty last year to fraud, but has yet to be sentenced as lawyers wrangle over how much blame he should shoulder for the scheme.
In 2006 and 2007, Aggressive Roadbuilders – a firm based in Langley – had a $7-million line of credit with ScotiaBank. But the line of credit was issued based on fraudulent documents, which claimed Aggressive was owed millions for road projects it had already completed.
Aggressive’s actual accounts receiveable – money they were owed by cities such as Surrey – was less than $1 million. The company claimed it was owed $13.15 million, to convince the bank to give the company a bigger line of credit.
In 2007, when they were unable to pay back the bank, outside accountants were called in and the fraud quickly unraveled. Aggressive was forced into bankruptcy.
Matt Brooks, then owner of Aggressive, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 2017.
It is Brooks who bears the bulk of the blame, said defence lawyer Ian Donaldson.
“It appears Brooks was a person who treated the business bank account as his own,” Donaldson added.
Brooks spent money or invested it, and brought money back in. Sometimes cash to pay the bills came from jobs, and sometimes from other sources.
“Some of these cheques were coming from outside the business,” Donaldson said.
The defence lawyer noted that Roberts has admitted he knowingly sent fraudulent information to ScotiaBank, drawing out the scheme over months.
But Donaldson painted his client as a mere office manager, not an expert at accounting or the originator of the fraud.
“He was just one more employee who was a victim of Brooks’ misappropriation of funds,” said Donaldson.
Crown counsel Brian McKinley, however, focused on the fact that Roberts knew what he was doing was wrong.
“He was a participant in this fraud,” McKinley said.
Emails and faxed documents with Roberts’ name on them, or from Roberts’ computer at Aggressive, were in regular communication with bankers and accountants about the fraudulent documents. Roberts compiled and organized information, said McKinley.
“Mr. Roberts role in the company is much more than a passer of information,” McKinley said. He argued that Roberts should also receive jail time.
“Two to three years is appropriate,” McKinley said. He offered Justice Palbinder Shergill a host of previous cases of fraud accomplices who served jail time for their roles in financial deceptions.
Although there’s no evidence Roberts received any of the money, he benefited from the continuing fraud indirectly, said McKinley.
His job title was controller of Aggressive, and Roberts received a salary of between $90,000 to $120,000 during the time of the fraud, along with a company car, credit card, and other benefits that added up to about $150,000 a year.
Roberts actively participated in the fraud to keep his job and his high level of compensation, McKinley said.
Neither Brooks’ nor Roberts’ guilty pleas have addressed what happend to the missing $6 million.
During Brooks’ sentencing hearing, the money was referred to as being lost or tied up in “other investments,” but Brooks’ defence lawyer also mentioned threats to her client, including 2011 drive-by shooting at Brooks’ then-home in rural Langley, and a 2014 incident in which his tires were shot out.
During Brooks’ sentencing hearing, he blurted out that Roberts knew where the money went.
“Ask where the missing money is, and who his business partners are!” Brooks said.
READ MORE: Second man found guilty in $6 million fraud