The RCMP commercial crimes unit is investigating allegations of fraud related to the previous management of Bear Mountain, federal RCMP spokesperson Const. Michael McLaughlin confirmed Thursday.
Usually, McLaughlin said, RCMP doesn’t publicly discuss fraud investigations. However because of the high profile nature of the case, he agreed to confirm a file was opened in October 2010 for an ongoing investigation stemming from a complaint received from Sean Burke, the goaltending coach for the Phoenix Coyotes who lost the majority of his $600,000 investment in the resort.
“Sean Burke wanted to speak out publicly about this case and we’re able to confirm that there is indeed an investigation underway … it does involve Bear Mountain,” McLaughlin said.
However, he wouldn’t say specifically who is accused of fraud or if there are multiple accused.
“Often in these complex investigations the picture can change the more we look into it,” he said. “If we determine a criminal offense has occurred, only then would we name the accused when we forward the file to the crown.”
The Gazette is attempting to reach Burke in his Phoenix office for comment.
He told reporters at the Globe and Mail that he believes former Bear Mountain president Len Barrie mishandled the company accounts.
The Globe quoted Burke claiming that Barrie “funded a lifestyle for himself with everybody else’s money. He was able to buy an NHL hockey club. He was able to do other investments around B.C.”
Barrie, reached on his cell phone, seemed unfazed by the investigation.
“(Burke) took an inaccurate and incomplete (financial) audit that should have never been released and gave it to the police,” Barrie said. “It shouldn’t take them long to realize this is nothing more than a personal attack by a guy who’s upset about losing his money.”
He said Bear Mountain’s financial audits were done by large reputable firms, who would have spotted accounting inconsistencies if any existed.
“I’ve been an open book for three years,” Barrie said. “Things didn’t go as planned and we all lost money (by investing in Bear Mountain). The housing market crashed. I couldn’t control that.”
McLaughlin stressed the RCMP investigation is important both to clear the innocent and uncover potential crimes.
“We take all complaints very seriously. Our criminal investigators will be looking into this fully,” he said. “At the end of it we may find nothing illegal took place. At this point it’s best to avoid wild speculation.”
Barrie has a March 29 hearing in Victoria provincial court on an unrelated charge of failing to file 2008 and 2009 corporate tax returns on behalf of the resort while he was CEO.
A former NHL hockey player, Barrie was the founder of Bear Mountain resort and residential properties and CEO until HSBC Bank Canada pushed the company into creditor protection in March 2010.
Court proceedings revealed the resort was more than $300 million in debt, mainly owed to HSBC, which is now has majority ownership of Bear Mountain.