Monday, April 27, 2015


In the latter part of 2014, a name cropped up on local radar, prompting me to devote a blog post to a potential problem in our midst. One good thing that came out of the exposure of convicted investment scam artist Gary Fraser is that he resigned from the Crystal Beach BIA Board. However, he still remains as an investor/developer for many local projects. 

This brings us to examine what is known as a Syndicated Mortgage which is the vehicle by which Gary Fraser has been able to "buy" many properties. By definition, a syndicated mortgage is one that is funded by several investors. Most definitions come with warnings such as:

Now look at syndicated mortgages.  In this arrangement, a broker puts together several investors into a single mortgage to secure loans on real estate – often development land.  The rate of interest seems wonderful, 8% or 10% or higher.  As a further enticement, the borrower may agree to pay a bonus, so the return is even higher.  Sounds too good to be true? Well, it often is.  There are many things that can go wrong – the land is worth less than appears (even with an appraisal).  Market conditions may change.  The borrower may be an asset-less numbered company.  The mortgage may be on land that is different than that promised.  There may be other lenders who rank ahead of this mortgage.  © 2012 John Hollander & Harold Geller
One of Gary Fraser's corporations is listed as the developer for a project funded by Lexon Mortgages Ltd. at the corner of Mitchener Road and Schooley Road in Crystal Beach. Fraser also has many other holdings in Crystal Beach and Ridgeway under either Starboardview Homes, Black Bear Homes or Clapboard Construction which is operated out of Ridgeway. Gary has bought three parcels of land, which includes two houses on Ridge Road under the name of Black Bear Homes. He paid $300,000 for the house at 613 Ridge Road North. The property is mortgaged for $800,000, a difference of $500,000. We have to question how a home can be mortgaged for more than twice its purchase price. 

Some of us are very wary of this man and his business dealings. We can't help but remember when Fraser pled guilty to 29 fraud-related charges in 2008. He served 30 months in jail.  While awaiting trial, Fraser managed to convince a fellow inmate to invest in one of his schemes. His own aunt, at Fraser's sentence hearing, said:
"I have been searching deep within myself for the past seven years to find forgiveness for Gary, but I can't," said Cheryl Fraser.
"I didn't see any remorse in his eyes. I looked right at him and he looked right through me."

Fraser has been in town for about a year and has overseen the purchase of many properties. Some are now considered eyesores, like the shell of a building left at Queen's Circle that was once listed at $1 Million for an executive-style mansion and the boarded-up former Pines Restaurant. Houses that one of his companies is constructing on Rebstock Road have a mortgage that is double the purchase price. The selling price for the houses is greatly inflated as are many of the houses that are occasionally listed. Same too with the new proposed development on Michener and Schooley which has a mortgage three times its purchase price. 

The syndicated mortgage company that holds the mortgages is represented by Raymond Hau. It is believed that some locals have invested in this syndicated mortgage group.

To which we can only recount what was revealed at Fraser's sentencing in 2008:

Fraser was ordered to repay his victims, but
 those who attended court don't expect to get their 

money back.
"Our lives now are all about second mortgages,
 lines of credit, credit cards, interest rates and liens," 

said Grace.*

*One of the 13 victims of Fraser's $2 million scam who wished to be identified only as "Grace."

So, does anyone still believe that Gary Fraser paid back 
the over $2 million that he scammed in the early part of 
this century?

If you believe that, there's a great investment opportunity with a convicted fraudster with
connections to a syndicated mortgage company.

Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


UPDATE:  Press Release begs owners of 833 Helena Street to take responsibility for the spill; Region tries to play Victim Card, 

That was perhaps the only question asked at the Helena Spill Open House that was answered. Sort of.
Ron Tripp, former infrastructure head for the Town of Fort Erie, now in a similar post at the Niagara Region, told the questioner that "We (meaning the region) have consulted an attorney regarding the Helena Street Spill." We could take that as a clue as to what concerned neighbours need to do in order to protect themselves from this massive Clusterf*#k.

A group of about forty people heard an hour long show full of evasions and "I don't knows" from officials at several levels of government. The Ministry of Environment representatives answered most questions with the evasive "It's under investigation." The building where the spill was presumed to have come from is owned by a numbered company. No one seems to know who is the owner, yet Larry Coplan from the Fort Erie Fire Department admitted that his department "was aware" of what was in the building prior to the spill.

Even the spill itself is a mystery as to how it came to the attention of officials. An anonymous tip from as passerby alerted the town and the Region "became aware of the problem." Now they're saying that they're almost finished with the clean-up of an admitted 100,000 cubic meter spill.

But they could not give any details nor any predictions on long term effects of the solvents that leaked into the ditch along Helena Street. "There's an order from the Ministry regarding the spill."
So, I looked it up. HERE IT IS. In other words: if you want to know details, look it up yourself!

Some great questions were asked; few were answered. As if we didn't already know:
By-law Enforcement is Complaint Driven.

Mayor Redekop admitted that the Town is often "reactive" when confronted with problems, rather than "pro-active."  He said things should be handled differently. (Ho-hum)

Kimberly Zanko emceed the meeting, apparently reacting to numerous phone calls and inquiries from concerned citizens. Stephen Passero slithered in during the meeting and Sandy Annunziata did ask some pertinent questions. Harry Schlange and his Hobbit friend stayed for a few minutes. It was like Old Home Week for Tripp and Schlange. Tripp is still way out of his depth and Harry Schlange is now running the region in the same way he ran Fort Erie as its CAO.

Too bad those in attendance were not given the respect they deserve by having their questions answered. I'm curious to see what other media sources say about the Open House.

Monday, April 20, 2015


The newspaper article reported that 180 people attended the April 16 swearing in of the new/old board of the Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce held at the Buffalo Canoe Club in Bay Beach. Attendance was high this year as there was also an unofficial celebration of the complete takeover of the Fort Erie Town Council by chamber members with the help of the now de facto mayor of Fort Erie, Massa James Thibert.

Like the slaves of old, certain chamber members are taking direct orders from the Massa, especially those on the new council. We have dubbed the two head cheerleaders, Kim Zanko and Marina Butler as the Chamber Maids but they are now bolstered by Stephen Passero (Massa James' Boy), Chris Knutt, and George McDermott. The only non-chamber member of the current council is Don Lubberts who, along with Mayor Redekop, is already considered a Lame Duck by political pundits.

The famous 4-2-0 Plan was 90% effective. Started in 2010, immediately after the re-election of Bob Steckley in Ward 3; landslide victory for John Hill in Ward 4; Don Lubberts in Ward 5; and Paul Collard in Ward 6, the plan included insulting billboards; lawsuits; a whispering campaign; and downright ugly behaviour by the former mayor-by-five-votes, Doug Martin. A couple of so-called journalists piled on further with slanted and misleading stories. It was a team effort, headed up by Jim Thibert who was aware that The Four, as well as others, were applying heat to Jim's "arm's length" corporation (Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corporation) to be more accountable. Many hoped that Thibert would be fired, but the council could not make that final decision because Massa James was heavily insulated by his cronies and supporters who also held a lot of power in the community. Although his record of accomplishment is far less than stellar, he managed to keep his job and orchestrate the defeat of all but one of The Four.

Keen observers may already be aware that Fort Erie is persona non grata at the provincial level these days. Thibert did manage to get money for the race track, his "other job."  He is obsessed with it to the point that he spends a lot of time at the track and runs it like it was an ante bellum* plantation. Fine for the track workers, but is that all there is? What about all the other people who need jobs? Thibert believes they are "not skilled enough" and that is why they are unemployed. Guess the unemployed need to align themselves with a subsidized industry in Fort Erie, like the racetrack. Or be related to someone at Town Hall. Or have a good friend in the town's inner circle. Otherwise, they are SOL. And Thibert blames them for not being skilled enough. Oh, and the town is nothing but a whore to the province, according to his 2014 State of the Local Economy Address.

UPDATE: A well-established local firm is leaving Fort Erie to re-locate in St. Catharines because it has run out of space in its present location. There was no help from the EDTC because the EDTC mandate, as interpreted by Massa James, is only to assist those businesses that employ ten or more people. This three generation family business does not "fit the mandate." On a side note, a suitable location was found in Fort Erie but the rich local mover and shaker would not come down in his exorbitant price for the property in order to keep a local business local. 

IN OTHER NEWS: Council voted to reach into the Reserve Fund to fund overruns in the Lewis Street construction. $330,000 (including HST) was taken from the Storm Reserve Fund and the Water Reserve. No mention or promise to pay it back. This is added to the $500K to the Race Track and the DSBN for the "State of the Art" theatre.Meanwhile, council denied preservationists a chance to save a school and its historic bell tower. 

The Helena Street Spill.

April 21st at Town Hall from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

This is where the councillors should be demanding answers about the long-term effect of the spill that has apparently leeched into the ground and water table. Very dangerous situation that platitudes from the Chamber of Commerce cannot solve. This is where leadership is shown: how a community reacts to a chemical spill of large proportions. Let's not let this develop into a Love Canal scenario. 

PS. I have become very lazy of late. Don't really care about what others say, especially the silliness and Mean Girl antics on Facebook. I am trying to focus my attention on those things I ignored or procrastinated about for the past few years. I prefer now to sit and wait for the inevitable whinging about higher taxes and the balance of power on council going to a 5-2 decision every time. Time wounds all heels.

* (Not to be confused with the great country music band.)

Friday, April 10, 2015


However, his election for mayor financial report has a lot of holes in it.

Passero took over the late Rick Shular's Fort Erie Council Ward 2 seat and waded right in to the business of council as though he had never left. He was the recipient of a council decision to ignore a staff recommendation and won a by-election that cost the taxpayers around $40,000. Now he has the platform from which he will continue his quest for mayor. He has a strong bloc of votes from the Chamber Maids, George McDermott and Chris Knutt. Mayor Redekop will find that his power will be greatly diminished and sabotaged under the current regime.

Stephen floated into office on a wave of nostalgia for a pool that some claim will be open this summer. What Stephen and his followers fail to mention is the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be needed to bring the Kinsmen Pool up to health and safety standards. Part of the strategy by pool supporters is to publish a registration form for children's swimming lessons. Soon council will hear that the children of Fort Erie need to learn to swim at the Kinsmen Pool (forget about the "Y") and that it is the town's responsibility to make those classes happen: taxpayers will pay for the rehab of the pool. According to a 2011 Study, it would cost well over a half a million dollars to bring the pool to code and that would only be a temporary fix. In light of the diminishing attendance at the pool and a staff recommendation, council voted to do nothing about the pool and it closed for the 2012 season. It has since fallen into further disrepair. The Underwater Recovery Social Club (not to be confused with sanctioned underwater recovery units) will soon take over the lease on the pool. The forty plus membership will run the pool. Does anyone else see a problem here?

Council will, no doubt do a synchronized swimming routine and vote to fund the rehab of the pool. Stay tuned.

As to Passero's financial report for his unsuccessful mayoral run, there are a lot of interesting details and omissions, like what bank held the account. I suggest that people read his statement as well as all the others. Marina Butler's was also interesting.

Considering that Marina Butler called for a compliance audit for former Ward 4 Councillor John Hill after the 2010 election, she should welcome close scrutiny of her own financial statement.