IG news Update,
A property in Vancouver’s Fairview neighborhood, a poor line of credit, a trusted French man and an elderly couple he believed to be pseudo-parents are at the center of a messy legal battle in the B.C. Supreme Court.
On October 5, Justice Warren Millman ordered the defendants, Gordon and Jeanine Capellas, to pay more than $742,000 in damages for the theft of François Millie’s life savings under the guise of friendship and legal guidance.
Plaintiff’s lawyer told CTV News that the case is an example of affinity fraud, a type of investment scam in which victims are targeted as members of a particular group, such as a religion and race.
“It is often said that a thief has to show confidence in the person they are going to deceive,” explains Les Macoff.
According to the verdict, Millie met Capellas in 2009, a few years after immigrating from France to Canada. Since he saw the pair as his surrogate family, he often referred to the Kapellas as “dad” and “mom”.
Mr. Kapelus is a retired attorney, which is a reason to turn to Millie for legal advice in June 2016. He had just sold his property and invested the proceeds, only to find that TD Bank had made an error while making the payout statement. For sale.
This left one of the two lines of credit unpaid, and TD was refusing to discharge the mortgage until the bank received repayment.
Capellas advises Millie against succumbing to TD’s demands, and begins talking to the bank on Millie’s behalf. In November 2016, after months of bargaining with TD, Kapelus convinced Millie to transfer his life savings to the corporate account of Genlex Investments Ltd., a company owned by the defendant. The theory was that this would improve Millie’s bargaining position, but in reality, those funds were transferred personally to Mr. and Mrs. Capellas.
A timeline provided in the court’s ruling shows that TD filed an action in debt against Millie in January 2017 and Mr. Kapelus handled the lawsuit on Millie’s behalf.
“To say that Mr. Kapelus handled the trial unfairly would be an understatement,” the judgment reads. “Suffice it to say that things didn’t go well for Mr. Millie.”
By June 2019, Millie decided to drop the appeal and pay the TD, asking for her money back. At this point, the Capellas couple broke off communication, and Millie was forced to rent her home in Victoria, where she moved in hopes of retiring. From there, he went from being a defendant in a property case to a plaintiff in a fraud case that consumed another three years of his life.
There is no account of how Millie’s funds were spent by her former pseudo-parents, but Justice Millman provided an explanation in her ruling.
“Evidence before me suggests that more than half of the balance, totaling $268,764, was probably used to pay off two outstanding judgments against Ms Kapelus in February 2019 in favor of the University of British Columbia, her former employer. Millman wrote.
As it turns out, this wasn’t the first time the Capellas had been on court. Mr Kapelus represented his wife in their case against UBC, which lasted 23 years and ended in her loss.
Now, she and her husband must pay approximately $642,000 in pecuniary damages and $30,000 in aggravated damages, with Mr. Kapelus liable for another $70,000 in punitive damages. Milly’s defense team is also seeking special costs, which will cover their client’s legal costs.
“There is nothing quite as satisfying as representing a decent person who has been treated dishonestly and justified,” says Macoff.
Once damages are deposited, Macoff says Millie will be able to pay off the money she borrowed, plus the mortgage she had to take out in Victoria, and will be left with some retirement savings.
“I’m not saying he’s going to be completely rebuilt,” McOff says. “But it will bring him as close as possible.”