Often civil fraud recovery cases serve the dual purpose for a fraud victim of financial recovery and psychological vindication through retribution. Normally retribution in civil fraud recovery cases is a judgment issued by a Court with written reasons that become public record. For an example of a full recovery and retribution through a published judgment, obtained by our firm, see the case of MTI ats Zia Shlaimoun, Nik Korakianitis and Infinafund Limited
Civil Judgments for Retribution
In other cases a recovery is not possible due to the fraudulently obtained funds being spent in a lavish lifestyle or transferred out of the country to a jurisdiction which makes recovery economically unfeasible. However, while immediate recovery may not have been possible, some fraud victims wish to invest in a civil fraud recovery action to ensure a public judgment is issued by the Civil Courts, to lobby the Crown to not enter into a lenient criminal plea deals, and to ensure there is evidence available to be used by the criminal courts to impeach the fraudster. This is what occurred in the Macklem case handled by our firm.
In Mackle ats L’Ecuyer, an egregious investment fraud was perpetrated by an escort and her drug dealer husband on an Ottawa man with cerebral palsy. Darquise L’Ecuyer, who also went by the name of the married name of Darquise Johnson (married to Nolan Johnson), preyed upon Mr. Macklem, ultimately convincing him that she saw past his disability, that she wanted to marry him, have his children and spend her life with him on a Caribbean island. Over the course of more than a year, L’Ecuyer scammed Mr. Macklem out of more than $800,000 of his inheritance through a series of transfers. Ultimately Johnson faked her own death – and then the fraud unravelled.
Civil Action Proceeds Concurrently with the Criminal Proceedings
Johnson was charged with fraud and warrants for her arrest, and that of her husband Nolan, were issued. Immigration records showed that they had fled to Jamaica. Believing that Mr. Macklem would not report the fraud to police, L’Ecuyer returned to Ontario and was arrested. Upon her arrest, a civil action was commenced against her and Nolan Johnson. The civil action and the criminal charges proceeded in tandem toward trial. Prior to the criminal trial taking place, discoveries of L’Ecuyer were conducted that resulted in volumes of transcripts wherein L’Ecuyer told a story to explain her conduct. Also prior to trial, various motions were held wherein her bank records and transaction documents were obtained, laying plain the depth of her deceit. Ultimately, prior to the criminal trial, the defence of L’Ecuyer was struck and judgment was issued against her see more about the case here
Civil Proceeding Evidence Results in Break Down of Criminal Plea Deal
While the civil proceedings were unfolding, the Crown was entertaining a settlement deal with L’Ecuyer. Crown Attorney’s often do not wish to take fraud cases to trial for various reasons, including their own lack of resources and lack of interest in fraud matters. The lack of interest by Crown Attorneys prosecuting fraud cases often results because of the amount of detailed financial preparation required to build a case essentially on circumstantial evidence. Crown Attorneys often are more attracted to crimes of violence which simply require the preparation of complainants and witnesses to advise the court of what they observed without reference to volumes of documents.
In the L’Ecuyer criminal case, the Crown advised Mr. Macklem that they were prepared to plea L’Ecuyer out to one count of fraud with a sentence of two years less-a-day (provincial time) and withdraw the charges against her husband and co-conspirator Nolan Johnson. When Mr. Macklem and his investigators learned of this, they were outraged contacted our office.
We were in possession of the evidence including transcripts of L’Ecuyer from the civil action. We advised the Crown that entering a plea with a two year sentence would be an injustice to Mr. Macklem, and that they should review the evidence from the civil case before ratifying their criminal plea deal position. Fortunately the Crown did so and withdrew their plea deal offer to L’Ecuyer. L’Ecuyer went to trial in trial in her criminal case and ultimately received a 4 year sentence. A warrant for the arrest of Nolan Johnson remains outstanding. For an example of a media article on L’Ecuyer’s sentence, see:
Former Call Girl Convicted in Fraud Gets 4 Years
CBC News: A former call girl who defrauded a disabled software engineer from Ottawa out of $850,000 and then faked her own death was sentenced on Friday to four years in prison.
Darquise Johnson — who also goes by the name Darquise L’Ecuyer — was convicted in January of five fraud-related offences.
Crown prosecutors were seeking a sentence of five to seven years for Johnson, 31, for what they described as her cruel treatment of Douglas Macklem, a computer software analyst who has spent most of his life in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy.
Civil Transcripts Used to Impeach Fraudster in Criminal Proceedings
The use by the Crown to impeach L’Ecuyer with her civil action transcripts played a significant role in her conviction. The enclosed media report demonstrates the point:
Former Escort Lied During Trial
OTTAWA — Former escort Darquise Lecuyer has told so many lies during her fraud and extortion trial that it’s difficult to tell where the fiction ends and fact begins, a Crown attorney said Friday.
Lecuyer, 31, was back in the witness stand testifying in her own defence against charges she bilked computer systems analyst Douglas Macklem out of more than $800,000 over almost two years.
Crown attorney Jason Neubauer pointed out inconsistencies between her testimony in a 2008 civil suit, what she said in the witness stand Thursday and what she told the court Friday.
Lecuyer admitted that much of her 2008 testimony (in the civil case) was a lie.
She told court she lied (in the civil case)to cover for husband, Jamaican-born Nolan Johnson, whom she described as not only the mastermind behind the alleged fraud, but a bully who beat her when she balked at his orders to squeeze more money out of Macklem, a man living in a wheelchair who had fallen hopelessly in love with the call girl.
When Lecuyer said she couldn’t recall if she’d phoned or e-mailed Macklem to tell him she had miscarried a baby he thought was his, Neubauer reminded her that on Thursday she had sobbed on the stand as she described the phone conversation.
“I don’t recall that very moment,” she said Friday.
“You don’t see how very different these versions are?” Neubauer asked.
“I’m not lying,” Lecuyer replied.
In fact, she had never been pregnant in the first place.
She testified Thursday that Johnson wrote the e-mail to Macklem informing him Lecuyer had died in a Christmas car crash in the Dominican Republic, but she said in 2008 that a woman at an Internet cafe in Jamaica had written and sent it.
“I just told her to write something to (Macklem),” she said then. She said the woman asked what to write and Lecuyer told her to tell him she was dead.
The reality is that difference in her evidence from the civil proceeding compared to that of the criminal proceeding made her evidence unreliable and not credible – which in large part resulted in the jury disbelieving her story in the criminal courts and convicting her. Had the civil transcripts not been available to impeach her story at the criminal trial, the result may have been an acquittal.
Civil Judgments and Criminal Convictions Provide Some Psychological Closure
In addition to providing evidence for impeach purposes, the retribution available through the civil and criminal justice systems often provides fraud victims with some (not all) psychological release from the suffering they have incurred. In the Macklem case, this was well documented by an interview given by Mr. Macklem to the press – see Fraud Victim Doug Macklem Speaks to Fraud Conviction
Investigation Counsel PC Assist with Criminal Victim Impact Statements
At Investigation Counsel PC, we assist fraud victims in preparing their victim impact statements. To Mr. Macklem’s credit, he quite eloquently wrote the Court the effects the fraud had on his life. The victim impact statement of Mr. Macklem, as published by the Government of Canada as part of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, is an excellent example of the issues that should be addressed when preparing victim impact statements. See Victim Impact Statement – Douglas Macklem – http://www.victimsweek.gc.ca/stories-experience/r78.html .
Mr. Macklem’s victim impact statement sets out in vivid detail the effects of fraud on its victims – effects such as despair and depression – which are often far more serious than the effects of violent crime. The Victim Impact Statement of Mr. Macklem read as follows:
It is quite obvious I have physical challenges and barriers. As a result of my condition, I depend on the help of other people, trusting others implicitly to take care of me and to assist me with even the most basic human needs. This is my reality and I do not want any special consideration in these proceedings as a result of my circumstances. At the same time though, I do need to acknowledge my disability because I cannot express what the impact of these crimes has been on me without addressing the fact that trust in others has a daily significance for me. Trusting people literally allows me to survive and be a complete person.
Because of what Darquise L’ecuyer Johnson did to me, she has severely undermined my ability to trust others and to trust in my own judgment. As a result, this whole situation has greatly reduced my sense of security and well-being which lessens my quality of life.
Darquise used my trust in her to create an entirely believable world for me during 2006. It was a world where I was a man loved by a woman and we had a common vision of a future with each other. It was a world where I felt incredible and empowered not just because I loved her, but because for the first time in my life I thought a woman truly loved me in return.
I felt blessed and proud that I could provide for this beautiful woman who loved me by making her lifestyle dreams a reality. There was nothing I wouldn’t give or sacrifice for our love and there is no doubt in my mind she knew this was my truth.
It was a world that I continued to believe existed into 2007 even when evidence was beginning to tell me otherwise. She had done such a convincing job that even though my logical brain said that it had all been a lie, there was a part of me that still wanted to live in the fictional world she created and had convinced me was real. As I slowly discovered the truth throughout the investigation phase, I had to accept that the world I thought I was living in was in fact a complete fabrication. This realization tore my heart out and left me as a shadow of my former self.
Years passed before I learned through investigation that some of her fabrications had a basis in reality. The details we discussed paralleled details of her own life with her husband Nolan in Jamaica where a villa actually exists. This was a hollow solace, but at least there was a semblance of truth within her lies that provided an explanation as to why her lies seemed so believable when she described them to me with such excited anticipation. Yet on the balance of probability, I financed the Johnsons’ planned future together and this prospect tears me up inside every day.
The emotional toll this has taken on me is not possible to express entirely in words. The pain has been so severe at times that I have felt as if I was breaking apart from the inside. Romantic love and intimacy has always been one of the things I’ve wanted most in my life. I was raised in a loving family and I aspired to enjoy what everyone around me enjoys by way of a normal, loving relationship with a life partner; creating a home together and raising a family of our own.
However, my experience since my teenage years has been that women find me unattractive and that my disability poses a barrier that cannot be surmounted. Every past attempt at a romantic relationship has ended with the woman running away. The result is that over the years I have poured myself into my work and my studies in an attempt to console myself, while all around me my friends have dated, become engaged, got married, and had children. I long for this to happen for me but as the years have passed I have lost hope that someday I might enjoy a fulfilling relationship with a woman.
Some people may judge me harshly for engaging the services of an escort. I think you have to fully value the basic human need for closeness and warmth to understand that I did so to fill the complete void of intimacy in my life. Some form of intimacy, albeit temporary, was better for me than none at all.
When Darquise led me to believe that she wanted to enter into a long-term, committed relationship with me I began to have hope that I might be able to have a wife and family after-all. My self-confidence grew and I began to plan what our future together would be
When she told me she was pregnant with our child in May 2006, our relationship and the idea of a future together was further enhanced in my heart and mind. For me, the prospect of having a child meant another very important and seemingly elusive dream was miraculously coming true. I was to be a father and I was overjoyed with the prospect. I knew I would be a good father because I had had a good role model in my own father.
I loved the child growing inside of Darquise and I felt a fatherly responsibility towards my child almost immediately. So when Darquise announced she would abort my child if I didn’t quickly come up with the $114,000 she required, I became panicked that she would follow through. I struggled to figure out how to come up the money for Darquise because I absolutely believed and feared that my unborn child’s life was at stake.
To meet this demand for money, I put a mortgage on the family home willed to me by my mother. While I would do anything to save my unborn child, this did leave me feeling as if I was somehow letting my parents down by jeopardizing their life’s work, their legacy. It is more than just a house, it is an asset my parents worked hard for to ensure my financial well-being and that my future is comfortable. It is their love for me – their child.
When I learned Darquise had had a miscarriage, the pain and the grief was tremendous. I wanted to be with her to share and provide comfort to her but I was rejected and told the miscarriage was my fault. This left me not only in the terrible pain of losing my child, but feeling very lonely with a heavy sense of guilt. It was agonizing guilt like I’ve never known before.
Emotionally, the elation of the pregnancy, lowered with the worry about the abortion, then followed by the stress of the miscarriage, was all very painful. But later when I learned that it all had been a lie to extract money from me, I was devastated. That I was the victim of such cruelty is beyond my comprehension and at times I still weep.
On Christmas day 2006, when I received an email that told me my fiancé was dead, I suffered all the emotional impact that one can imagine upon receiving such news. But then again, the emotional impact of that experience was further intensified when I discovered that this was also a lie that was really about money. This lie was to prevent me from going to the Dominican Republic and finding out there was no family of hers, no villas of ours, and no future for us.
I felt like a fool for ever believing I could have a normal life. This has been the only time in my life that I have felt truly worthless and these words don’t come easily to my lips.
This feeling like a fool has had a very heavy toll on me. During the four years since I brought this matter to the police, I’ve been in three different courts reliving everything like it’s still happening. It’s been an analytical nightmare of continually reliving even the minute details. I’ve been carrying every second of this in my mind, afraid to lose any of it because I wasn’t sure what might be an investigative lead or important testimony. And all the while I’ve been seemingly defending myself for not seeing the warning signs of fraud long before the end point.
To have to defend my place as a victim has also been burdensome, but I must say to finally be able to testify to this in criminal court has brought some relief and means I can now begin to truly let go.
Now, however, I have to reconcile my harshest reality. I know that I may never be able to trust another woman who says she wants to be with me. And knowing this breaks my heart each and every day.
In the other parts of my life, the cost of taking this case through the courts has included the loss of family and friends who have withdrawn from me. I understand that they may not be able to deal with the embarrassment that my situation has inadvertently caused them. I did not intend to hurt anyone else with the ripple effect of my choices. I certainly was not able to predict that the false reality created by Darquise to defraud me would so negatively affect the lives of my family and friends. It remains now that while I searched for the love of one, I lost the love of a few who I cherish the most.
As I’ve mentioned, I do pour myself into my work. I accept that I am a man whose self-definition may be more weighted in work accomplishments than other people. And if you accept that about me, then notable changes in my work habits should alert you that there have been serious problems.
The constant struggles to reconcile what happened to me occupied so much of my mental energy that it left me unable to think clearly and focus. As a result, my work performance suffered terribly, and this later became evident in my annual performance reviews.
My technical knowledge had been accredited by my boss as being in the top 10% of Information Technology professionals in Ottawa and I was very well-regarded by my peers. But this fraud reduced me from a top professional with the highest levels of achievement to someone who needed to take stress leave and frequent compassionate days. This change in my work status disqualified me for annual bonuses, raises and promotional opportunities that were at one point unquestioned certainties for me.
I missed out on many projects that would ordinarily excite and challenge me because it was impossible for me to sustain focus.
There is another impact I have difficulty addressing because I do not wish to show any disrespect to anyone or any part of the criminal justice system that has been so instrumental in finally achieving justice for me. But the impact on me of one decision made was extremely significant and to omit mention of it would leave this statement incomplete.
In the spring of 2007, I received a telephone call from Detective Brenda Kerr informing me of the results of her inquiries and that the decision about extradition of Darquise and her husband from Jamaica for this fraud case was made.
It was not going to happen. There was not going to be any extradition.
To me, this meant that as long as these perpetrators remained outside of Canadian jurisdiction, they would face no consequences for their actions and could reap huge benefits from the proceeds of this crime; money swindled from me. They are no words to describe the feeling of knowing they were living well on my stolen money and there was no stopping it. I could not understand why, with all the emotional and financial damage inflicted upon me, the authorities would not bring Darquise and Nolan back to Canada to face the allegations against them.
Upon hanging up the phone, I immediately snapped and had a complete emotional breakdown right there in my workplace, consoled only by my colleagues. I was granted stress leave on the spot for as long as I required. I took over a month of stress leave and attended counseling in order to be able to function in any normal fashion from that point forward.
For the first time in my life, I sought psychological counseling and I also took anti-depressant medication for about eight months.
But while struggling to learn coping skills I didn’t have is one difficult result of this fraud, it’s the permanent effects that are harder to take.
I have come to fully understand the level of deceit Darquise perpetrated on me thanks to the help I’ve received, but going forward I will always question whether my perception of reality can be trusted. Every new relationship, whether it’s a friendship or a business association, will be subject to tremendous scrutiny. The comfort of openness and trust will be replaced with the high stress of questioning every detail and looking for possible ulterior motives. This is a complete and painful change of mindset for me.
Through this ordeal I’ve also learned that being emotionally preoccupied can also seriously affect my physical safety. By August of 2007, I had filed a civil lawsuit against Darquise. I was so focused on preparing to confront her in court and potentially see her, that while navigating a ramp that I had been down hundreds of times before my wheelchair overturned and both of my legs were broken. Due to the nature of my disability, these breaks caused my muscles to be in a constant state of contraction-an extremely painful condition that lasted for many months.
I had a second accident in early May 2009 that I also attribute to being emotional. I was again so focused on the civil case and Darquise’s contempt issue that was before the court that I drove over a pothole. Because stress causes my muscles to stiffen, that moment of distraction resulted in a broken hip, requiring hip replacement surgery and another extended absence from work.
The financial impact has been and will continue to be very severe for the rest of my life.
Because of Darquise’s lies to me, I liquidated my RRSPs, I lost my inheritance and I mortgaged the waterfront, customized home left to me by my parents that had been mortgage-free.
I have since had to mortgage that home a second time to consolidate all the debts; those remaining from the fraud and those that have mounted after the discovery of this fraud. I pay a large percentage of my income every month to honor the payment of this mortgage.
This means I cannot afford necessary repairs to my customized van which has severely restricted my freedom to move about and the idea of purchasing a new van is beyond the realm of possibility.
I also cannot afford necessary massage and physiotherapy treatments that are not covered by health plans. This means that my muscles remain in a constant state of tension and I must deal with the pain and discomfort of this on a daily basis. To be able to receive these kinds treatments was some of what my parents had in mind when they left me an inheritance.
I will not be able to afford a vacation for a very long time nor can I save for any future needs because my life is now reduced to working to pay my debts. As long as I am physically able, and deemed employable, I must work. As things stand now, I will never be able to afford to retire.
The pursuit of justice in this case has had some disheartening effects too as it has at times further compounded the financial impact on me while I’ve dealt with courts and government agencies.
First, the fact that this matter is a fraud means Canada Revenue Agency is denying any possibility of business loss allowances for what I once thought were legitimate businesses. This has resulted in significant tax liabilities which have become immediately due and payable.
CRA’s perspective is that because this is a fraud, there was never a possibility of a business and so I don’t qualify for tax relief. To CRA, Darquise’s crimes against me completely invalidate my business intentions from the beginning. My perspective of purchasing business assets to generate income to support my family is not considered at all, even though I didn’t know until the end that I was being victimized by fraud.
This has made me feel I’m being treated as though I was complicit in this crime. I feel I’ve been re-victimized by this as well as the bitter irony that may allow Darquise’s income tax debt on the money she stole from me to be forgiven as a result of filling bankruptcy.
The denial of any business loss tax relief combined with the tax liabilities as a result of RRSP disposition and inherited asset liquidation to pay debts, has created a significant second level of financial damage still unresolved today.
Second, I filed a civil suit against Darquise in search of the truth and to determine where all my money has gone. I also wanted her huge financial debt to me to be legally recognized.
Instead of taking responsibility for her actions and providing timely and complete disclosures with any possibility of recovery, Darquise used the civil court to make incredulous claims that I owed her money. Then she declared bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid any civil judgment against her.
At every step, in every court during this more than three-and-a-half year legal nightmare, her actions have maximized permissible time delays and caused more financial and emotional burdens on me.
While it is true that I have been awarded two judgments of $821,000 against Darquise and her husband Nolan in the civil court, the reality is I have no reasonable expectation that they will ever respect those judgments or even make a sincere attempt to repay any portion of the money.
To date, this fraud and the associated legal costs and tax liabilities as a result of this fraud, have cost me in excess of $1.4 million.
As I mentioned previously, I do not ask for any special treatment in these proceedings as a result of my disability. However, I am aware that many if not most people who learn about the actions of Darquise L’ecuyer Johnson share contempt with me toward anyone who would use my disability to rob me of my money, to rob me of my entitlement to self-respect, and most importantly, to rob me of my basic human dignity.
It is almost impossible to accept that I loved a woman whose values turned out were so shockingly different than my own. And with the passage of time, there is now some objectivity from me as I look at her across courtrooms, having mostly separated her from my heart. But what is tremendously difficult is that not once in all this time has she expressed any kind of remorse, sorrow or guilt for what she’s done to me.
She hasn’t taken any responsibility and while I’ve seen her shed tears, none of them were for me. And what is most pitiful is that if she was to say she was sorry now, I wouldn’t believe the woman I once so sincerely loved.
Reason for the Civil Action and Criminal Complaint:
In closing, many people have asked me why I spent money to take this case through the civil and bankruptcy courts. And the reason is as simple and as complicated as I did not want – and I do not want – what happened to me to happen to anyone else if I could or can help it.
I believe that if personal fraud is not seen as a serious crime and is not reported, investigated and prosecuted as a serious crime, then those who choose to perpetrate fraud and its related offences will continue to view honest citizens as easy prey.
My concern today in delivering this statement is not to add to the sentence imposed for the sake of vengeance. My hope is that these proceedings will convey a clear message that the Canadian legal system stands behind the principle that this kind of personal fraud will not be tolerated in our society and that those who perpetrate fraud will be confronted with the serious consequences of their actions.
Coordinating civil recovery prosecutions with criminal complaints is something most fraud victims should canvas with their fraud recovery lawyers before commencing either process. For further information on coordinating criminal complaints with civil fraud recovery actions, please contact us.