Former owner of Trius Tours to learn his fate Wednesday

George Brookins to be sentenced for fraud

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 18, 2014

A Trius bus sits in the comany's lot in Charlottetown after being towed there from an accident Sunday in Traveller's Rest.

TC Media - Nigel Armstrong

A business deal that saw a long-running, Charlottetown-based motor coach company change hands years ago took a bad turn along the way.

The fall-out has landed 75-year-old George Brookins, the man who got Trius Tours Ltd. rolling in 1986, in trouble with the law.

On Wednesday, he will learn his fate when P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Taylor imposes a sentence on Brookins, who has pleaded guilty to defrauding his former employer of more than $5,000 — much more, as it turns out.

In court Thursday, Crown attorney John McMillan and Brookins’ defence lawyer, Gordon MacKay, gave their summations in the intriguing case.

The agreed statement of facts read in court by McMillan painted a picture of a business arrangement that went drastically awry.

On April 1, 2005, Mike Cassidy and Bill Keith purchased Trius Tours from Brookins for $500,000 and hired Brookins as general manager at a salary of $50,000 per year.

Keith soon sold his shares to Cassidy. In 2008, Adam Doiron joined Trius Tours as a managing partner.

By 2006, Brookins was no longer an employee of Trius Tours but was hired as an independent contractor through his company 100433 PEI Inc., which was the registered owner of land and a building on 22 Gardfield Street in Charlottetown that served as the maintenance building where Trius Tours Ltd. buses were maintained. The property also housed the offices of Trius Tours.

Brookins went on to manage Trius Tours with little or no supervision. His responsibilities included soliciting new business, arranging buses and drivers for clients and customers, vehicle maintenance and dealing with other daily operational issues.

He relied on Pat MacDonald, a long-time female employee of Trius Tours, to assist.

After selling Trius Tours, Brookins also operated his own travel tour business while employed by Trius Tours.

The travel tour business operated as the numbered company 100433 PEI Inc. and also carried on business under the names Atlantic Motorcoach Services and Maritime Motorcoach Services, providing tour guides to cruise ship passengers.

In 2010, Doiron discovered an invoice from 100433 PEI Inc. made out to a client of Trius Tours.

After being confronted by Doiron regarding the invoice, MacDonald gave Doiron three memory sticks containing financial information pertaining to 10433 PEI Inc., Atlantic Motorcoach Services and Maritime Motorcoach Services.

After reviewing the information, Cassidy and Doiron asked for and received the resignations of both MacDonald and Brookins and initiated a complaint with the Charlottetown Police Services.

The memory sticks contained, among other things, hundreds of invoices directing payment for the rental of Trius Tours buses to Brookins’ company.

Between April 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2010, 13 clients of Trius Tours contacted Brookins and/or MacDonald and negotiated their respective agreements for transportation and the rental of Trius Tours buses.

The invoices directed payment be made to 100433 PEI Inc., Maritime Motorcoach Services or Atlantic Motorcoach Services. In each of these cases, the invoices included a fee for the rental of buses owned by Trius Tours.

Over a more than five-year period, Brookins used Trius Tours buses for his own financial gain without consent or knowledge of Cassidy and Doiron.

“He did treat Trius Tours Ltd. as if it was still his own business,’’ McMillan told the court.

Brookins admits to defrauding the company of $203,728.90 over that time. Cassidy contends the figure is $445,745.65.

Reading his victim impact statement in court, Cassidy said he was devastated to learn that Brookins was stealing from his company and added he is still feeling the “financial ramifications’’ of the fraud today.

McMillan suggested aggravating factors include the long duration of the crime and the degree of planning, as well as the fact that Brookins abused a position of trust.

MacKay asked the judge to give his client a suspended sentence, suggesting Brookins did not fare well in the business arrangement and is actually owed a large sum of money by Trius Tours. Civil action appears to be looming.

MacKay added that Brookins has no previous criminal record and notes the pre-sentence report reflects “he was a man of integrity.’’

“The circumstances are extraordinary — they’re exceptional,’’ MacKay said of the case, stressing Brookins did not actually take cash from Trius Tours.

Taylor said he would sentence Brookins Wednesday morning.