The Ottawa agent involved in the Golden Oaks rent-to-own debacle, along with his brother, must now pay as much as $658,000 to a bankruptcy trustee in earned commissions and interest.
An arbitration judge has ordered Christopher Steeves, and his brother, to return earning from a series of transaction undertaken on behalf of Golden Oaks Enterprises, an operation run by J.C. Lacasse. The company grabbed headlines in July 2013 when it filed for bankruptcy, leaving more than 200 tenants, contractors and investors out more than $27 million.
Not only is the receiver and bankruptcy trustee, Doyle Salewski Inc., entitled to reclaim interest and unlawful referral commissions, writes Justice John Douglas Cunningham, but second mortgages issued to Steeves and his brother in 2013 are to be nullified.
The pair were, in fact, business partners of Lacasse and as such not acting at arm’s length. They also "were not credible in their testimony," determined Cunningham.
In addition to the $658,000, "further input from the participants" could see Steeves shell out more to creditors.
The judge called the Golden Oakes rent-to-own business a “front” for a Ponzi scheme relying on new investors, handed promissory notes, to pay old investors “rather staggering” interest rates. Veterans of Ottawa’s real estate market have called Golden Oakes the single-biggest setback to Ontario’s rent-to-own segment in a decade.
A high-flying agent has fallen from grace with a thud – a judge ordering him to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions from an infamous deal.