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Chilliwack debt consolidator’s bio doesn’t tell the whole story
Jun 25, 2013
Don Antle doesn’t mention his personal bankruptcy, or cease-and-desist issued by financial regulators
By David Baines, Vancouver Sun columnist
Click here to view the original article published in the Vancouver Sun on May 21, 2013.
In my Saturday column, I reported that Don Antle of Chilliwack had sold at least 15 licences for his consumer debt consolidation businesses, Options Credit Services Canada Ltd.
Most of the purchasers paid $15,000 plus $1,800 HST for their licences and are not happy with what they got for their money.
They claim that Antle promised to send them customer leads and provide other types of support, including arranging the necessary government permits, but failed to do.
Four have filed lawsuits. Others are thinking about banding together to file a joint lawsuit. Others don’t see any point, as collection appears futile.
Meanwhile, Antle is continuing to solicit investments. In an April 4 email to a prospective investor, he portrayed his debt consolidation business as a profitable and dynamic enterprise, with the potential to manage $100 million within the next five years.
“If you do not have a minimum of $25,000 to put in comfortably with a further commitment based on the above this opportunity probably isn’t for you,” he wrote.
So who is Don Antle? In his April 4 email, he states:
“My background is senior corporate having been a VP at Molson’s national marketing office in Toronto. I ran Canada’s largest private agency in this sector for several years and served on the board of directors of CAICCA (Canadian Association of Independent Credit Counselling Agencies). I found my way into and developed a great passion for this industry as a senior executive with a small business turnaround team. I have started and operated several successful small business enterprises of my own.”
This picture of success does not quite square with some of the things I have discovered. For example, in 1999 he filed for personal bankruptcy, declaring $216,009 in total liabilities against only $800 in assets. He was discharged the following year. (At the time he was 44 years old. He is now 58.) I find his insolvency ironic for someone who claims to be an expert on debt management.
In February 2001 — just 10 months after he was discharged from bankruptcy — he was caught in a very awkward situation.
Two undercover police officers arrested him after he left a Richmond warehouse that he had leased for the previous two or three years. Inside the warehouse, they found nearly 2,700 marijuana plants and inside his pockets, they found a rolled-up wad of $20s, $50s and $100s. He was charged with cultivating a narcotic and possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
At trial, Antle said he had sublet the warehouse to a person named William Alexander Stewart. He said he went to the warehouse to inquire about an unpaid BC Hydro bill and “just about had a heart attack” when he saw the marijuana plants inside, according to a report in the Richmond Review.
Asked why he hadn’t become suspicious when the hydro bill rocketed from an average of $200 to $400 per month to more than $1,300 after Stewart moved in, he said he wasn’t sure how much electricity the sort of shop that Stewart said he was running would consume.
Asked to explain why he had $3,000 cash at the time of his arrest, he said he had collected some money from an Internet-based business he was running and some employment directories he was selling and hadn’t had time to deposit the money in the bank.
At that point, the trial took an unexpected turn. Antle’s lawyer called Stewart to the stand who — after getting assurance that he would be protected under the Canada Evidence Act (which meant his evidence couldn’t be used against him) — told court it was his grow operation and he never told Antle anything about it.
That corroborated Antle’s story. Although the judge said he was reluctant to do so, he dismissed the case.
In November 2003, Antle got into more trouble. Investigators at the B.C. Financial Institutions Commission saw a newspaper ad for an investment in a “private bank” that promised excellent returns on a minimum investment of $10,000, fully secured.
A FICOM investigator posed as a prospective investor and determined that the offer was being made by First Capital Trading & Finance Corp., whose directors included Antle and a person named Hal McLeod.
The investigator met with Antle and McLeod in their Abbotsford office. Antle explained that First Capital had a subsidiary called First Capital Credit Corp. that sold “prepaid major credit and debit cards to individuals who do not qualify for credit from financial institutions.”
Antle said the firm had a contract with MasterCard. Customers could deposit money “in trust” with First Capital, then they would get a MasterCard enabling them to make withdrawals up to the deposit amount.
FICOM said the investigator checked with MasterCard, which denied it had any contract with First Capital.
The investigator also interviewed two people who said they applied for cards and deposited money with McLeod, but didn’t receive any cards and were unable to get their money back.
FICOM noted that neither First Capital Trading nor First Capital Credit was authorized to carry on trust business in B.C. and issued a cease-and-desist order against both.
McLeod went on to achieve a significant level of notoriety. In August 2009, the B.C. Securities Commission permanently banned him from the B.C. securities market and fined him $8 million after finding that he masterminded a massive Ponzi scheme called Manna Humanitarian Foundation. He hasn’t paid a cent of the fine.
In March 2012, McLeod — who by this time had changed his name to Michael Carter Smith — was arrested for allegedly breaching his ban by promoting an investment scheme in Surrey and with uttering forged documents. The case is pending.
Antle’s boast that he “ran Canada’s largest private agency in this sector (the debt consolidation business) for several years” appears to be an exaggeration.
The agency is NCC Financial Corp., for which Antle worked as vice-president of sales and marketing, reporting to the chief executive officer.
According to court records, he had a three-year contract with the company, starting in March 2006 and ending in February 2009. However, in March 2008 — nearly a year before the contract was due to expire — the company unilaterally terminated it. Antle sued NCC for breaching the contract and won, but it’s clear that, for whatever reason, the company didn’t want him around any more.
His claim that he served as a director of the Canadian Association of Independent Credit Counselling Agencies, an industry lobby group for debt-pooling companies, is also an exaggeration.
According to CAICCA president Margaret Johnson, Antle attended two board meetings as a representative of NCC. He was never a director and not even a member, although he claimed on his website that he was.
She said that in 2011 and 2012, the association’s lawyer sent letters warning him not to associate himself with CAICCA or it would take legal action.
Advised that Antle is continuing to cast himself as a former director, she sighed: “Don Antle does whatever he wants to do.”