By Victor Evlogiev
Construction contractors in the Eastern Townships are suing a French businesswoman, Angélique Lepêcheur, alleging that she embezzled nearly $2 million from them. According to the owners, two of their companies struggle to recover after she took over as CEO. Another is preparing for bankruptcy.
In an interview with shareholders of GMI Construction Group, Déco Surfaces Couvre-Planchers Fana and Excavation KVN, entrepreneur Ian Dufresne said: “She has no scruples. None.”.
In a lawsuit filed in Sherbrooke in October, these companies are claiming nearly $2.8 million in damages from Lepêcheur, its companies and its partners.
Also in September, their assets were seized before judgment was rendered. In an email from her lawyer to La Presse , Revenu Québec acknowledges that Desjardins has frozen Immistra inc., a Lepêcheur company, to preserve the approximately $78,000 it is claiming from it.
Police have not commented on the case. The entrepreneurs filed a complaint with the Sherbrooke police in November and January, and then with the SQ in June, but have not heard anything.
“I won’t be able to answer you,” Angelique Lepêcheur said by telephone, before directing us to her attorney Frédéric-Antoine Lemieux, who sent us court documents, produced to prevent the seizure of its assets.
“The accounting reproaches” against her, according to one of her statements, “are unfounded and directly contradicted by invoices, accounting entries, well-established and accepted business practices [sic] as well as statements made by plaintiffs and their representatives.”
It begins in 2018 when a headhunter presents Angélique Lepêcheur’s candidacy to GMI and Fana. They are looking for an administrative general manager (GM).
One of the partners in both companies, Ian Dufresne, explains, “They sold it to us saying she was running a large co-op in France.”
The headhunting firm does not mention the criminal complaint that the French coop’s president had filed with the Gendarmerie eight months earlier for “fraudulent acts” in its accounts (see next tab).
In April 2019, the entrepreneurs hired him at $90,000 a year with a car and a company phone without suspecting anything.
Lepêcheur persuades the entrepreneurs to set up a system similar to a cooperative, the Pôle Construction et Design, to pool their management and accounting.
In 2020, Excavation KVN and Constructions J5, owned by other investors, will also be clients of Lepêcheur. She will therefore lead them as well.
In November 2019, Lepêcheur, although hired as an employee of GMI, demanded to exercise her functions as CEO of the Pole companies through her new company, Immistra. Entrepreneurs fold, according to their lawsuit.
After recruiting employees, the DG re-invoices their salaries to the companies in the Cluster to which it provides general management and accounting services.
“We started to doubt a little bit when she stopped sending us financial statements every month,” says Guillaume Fortin, owner of GMI with Ian Dufresne and his brother Mathieu.
During the winter of 2021, the shareholders of GMI and Fana had verifications conducted and discovered “several alarming anomalies” in the figures produced by the DG.
According to the prosecution of the entrepreneurs, the company would have diverted 2 million in various overbillings and checks issued without authorization as a result of its control over the finances of the companies in the Construction Division. As a second company vehicle, Lepêcheur even rented an Audi from GMI, without authorization, in the fall of 2020.
According to entrepreneurs who met with La Presse, some suppliers are closing their accounts due to late payments. Lepêcheur is no longer paying them.
“But she says: ‘Let me handle this pressure from suppliers’”, says Ian Dufresne.
They claim she pays her own bills for her CEO and accounting “services” through contractor accounts she has direct access to.
A KVN shareholder, Vincent Normand-Parenteau, was informed by an external accountant in August 2022 that his company had lost $91,832. Lepêcheur kept telling him as CEO that “everything [was] fine,” according to the lawsuit. Two days later, he breaks down in tears, believing he is headed for bankruptcy.
As of June 2022, GMI and Fana revoke Lepêcheur’s access to their systems.
“In 10 minutes, she went upstairs and filled boxes of paperwork,” says Ian Dufresne. He then discovers that legal and accounting documents have vanished.
According to the contractors’ petition, she issued a check for $43,210 from Fana’s account to another company whose finances she still controls despite being neither a signatory nor authorized.
In KVN, Lepêcheur was removed as CEO on August 24, 2022. Since then, the company has recovered somewhat. But Fana “only has debts left”, laments Ian Dufresne.
The company of Angélique Lepêcheur and Nicolas Wajchert, Immistra inc., owes Maryne Gaudin $1341 for unpaid vacation hours.
Angélique Lepêcheur was the target of a criminal complaint on the other side of the Atlantic eight months before she was hired by entrepreneurs in Sherbrooke. In Brittany, other entrepreneurs have denounced “fraudulent actions” spread over years in the management of their materials purchasing cooperative, where she was general manager until 2017.
The president of the MBR35 cooperative filed a complaint with the Gendarmerie.
Lepêcheur’s lawyer in Quebec, Frédéric-Antoine Lemieux, told La Presse that she has never been convicted in this case and that her legal file is blank.
The complaint is part of the evidence filed in support of the contractors’ lawsuit against Lepêcheur in Quebec. She notes several points in common with their accusations.
In an interview, Hervé Maussion, president of the coop, said, “It started off well with Angélique Lepêcheur, but it evolved.” We purchased a piece of land and began building.
In 2014, the co-op had an addition built, which led to ruinous cost overruns. “The co-op was running a deficit. So instead of explaining it to the members, she manipulated the stocks.” says the president.
In 2016, MBR35 auditors found that 300,000 euros (approximately C$433,000) in false deliveries had been accounted for by the organization. Hervé Maussion reports that the general management declared a net profit, but after redoing the calculations, he concluded a loss of 224,000 euros.
Upon reviewing the accounts over several years, the auditors found a hole of 1.6 million euros for the years when she was in charge, explains the president.
“We tried to find out more, but she destroyed all the documentation,” said Hervé Maussion. She had prepared her shot eight to ten months earlier, before the situation really got hot.
In contrast, the Rennes court ordered RSM Ouest, the audit firm that confirmed the accounts conducted under its direction, to pay 47,855 euros to the co-op. Despite the damage suffered, the amount was insufficient and unfair, laments the president. MBR35 sought almost 1.3 million euros.
In April 2018, Hervé Maussion filed a criminal complaint against her. “Once we revoked the license, we never saw it again,” he said.
According to her statements in court, she arrived in Canada in November 2018 and obtained a work permit.
A couple from Sherbrooke is suing Angelique Lepêcheur, her husband Nicolas Wajchert and their company Les Maisons Harmonie for $ 915,205. The businesswoman has alienated entrepreneurs as well. A dream home turned into an embezzlement nightmare for the plaintiffs.
Rachel Girard laments, “They’ve lied to us from the start.”.
As with the companies that claim to have been cheated, her spouse Jonathan Tétrault and she have recently seized the assets of Lepêcheur and Wajchert before judgment.
Their lawsuit claims that Les Maisons Harmonie built their dream house for 1.6 million dollars on a wooded lot in Saint-Denis-de-Brompton, in the Eastern Townships, in May 2022. Delivery was originally planned for October 2022, but was postponed until February 2023, leading to the site’s abandonment.
During La Presse’s visit to the couple’s unfinished home, the kitchen is devoid of any equipment. In the middle of the room, the water connection pipes come out of the floor, right where the island should be. Harmonie charged $5,000 for the cellar, but there is no sign of it.
Rachel Girard learned a few weeks after signing the agreement that she has two chronic illnesses. “I have the potential to end up in a wheelchair,” she said.
Harmonie changed the plans to build a one-story house instead.
Lepêcheur and Wajchert told the Girard-Tétraults it was impossible since they had already “invested” $700,000 in the project, according to the lawsuit.
Having already paid a deposit of $165,000, the Girard-Tétraults decided to proceed.
In August 2022, construction began, says Jonathan Tétrault. It was still going well at the time.
The couple becomes wary of Harmonie in December; Harmonie has already charged him almost 1.1 million, while the keys are not handed over until March. Moreover, Rona Anctil, the hardware store where the couple does business, contacts him to inform him that $30,600 in bills are still outstanding for the house, which is already two months old. However, the Girard-Tétraults assure that all their accounts have been paid.
According to Jonathan Tétrault, the roofing, electrical, structural, and supplier contractors never received their money, despite the million disbursed. In all, 22 companies could claim about $270,000.
In their lawsuit, Wajchert claims that the Girard-Tétraults are in arrears of $158,155. Harmonie is supposed to pay all the bills. According to him and Lepêcheur, they even tell subcontractors the couple isn’t paying their bills, which they consider “misleading and defamatory”.
In the end, Rachel Girard paid Maisons Harmonie an additional $50,000 through her line of credit to prevent a work stoppage, and another $156,000 to avoid the project being abandoned.
The couple claims to have received invoices for equipment that was never delivered.
The company’s attorney says Rachel Girard and Jonathan Tétrault still owe him $286,029, and announces that the work has been suspended. In March, the couple receive a formal notice.
A bailiff served them with a notice of seizure on June 6 to repay $365,899 to Maisons Harmonie, but a week later, Rachel Girard and Jonathan Tétrault seized Lepêcheur and Wajchert’s assets.
“We dispute the accusations made,” Lepêcheur and Wajchert said through their lawyer, Frédéric-Antoine Lemieux.
An agent from the Sûreté du Québec told Rachel Girard and Jonathan Tétrault on June 5 that there would be no investigation. Contacted by La Presse, the police did not comment.
Rachel Girard said, “We are angry. I feel neglected by the police. With all the harm they’ve caused, I cannot understand why they don’t do anything. We have evidence, but they will be able to get away with it easily.”
As a result of the Residential Construction Guarantee, which protects buyers in principle, Maisons Harmonie was ordered to complete the property by October 31, according to a letter the Girard-Tétraults received at the end of June. Those who fail to comply will be covered by the organization, but only up to $300,000.
Since appraisers estimate that the work will cost him up to $500,000, this isn’t enough to solve the couple’s nightmare with Lepêcheur and Wajchert.
Rachel Girard laments: “It really affects me a lot. My health is getting worse and worse, and we are stuck.”
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