George Brookins receives sentence of house arrest

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 23, 2014
Trius bus. FILE PHOTO

A Charlottetown businessman has been sentenced to one-year house arrest after pleading guilty to fraud over $5,000.

P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Taylor imposed a conditional sentence that confines Brookins to his home for 12 months. He is allowed to leave his home to work in his own travel tour business, attend medical appointments and for religious observances.

He will be placed on one-year probation following completion of the conditional sentence.

Taylor says he took into consideration 75-year-old Brookins' age, his guilty plea, a positive pre-sentence report, and the fact Brookins has no prior criminal record in reaching the sentence.

No restitution was ordered. A civil suit is expected to determine who owes whom money and just how much.

Brookins admitted to defrauding Trius Tours, a company he sold in 2005 to Mike Cassidy and Bill Keith.

Cassidy took civil action against Brookins in 2011 and Brookins counter sued. The suits remain active.

Both Brookins and Cassidy spoke with the media following the sentencing of Brookins.

Brookins agrees the fraud conviction tarnishes what had been a longstanding reputation as a person who performed with good character in business and in personal life.

"I was a good community person and you look at yourself in the mirror and you say 'am I a crook (and) what do people think of me,''' he said.

He says he accepts his sentence "without bitterness'' and plans to go forward.

Cassidy says he is a victim of fraud, noting Brookins pleaded guilty to the offence.

Brookins admits to defrauding the company of $203,728.90 between April 1, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2010. The agreed statement of facts read recently in court show Brookins used Trius Tours buses for his own financial gain without the consent or knowledge of Cassidy.

Cassidy contends the figure is $445,745.65.

However, he is suing Brookins for more than that amount, noting the police investigation unveiled "that there are tremendous dollars still owing.''

Brookins, meanwhile, says he is seeking about $550,000 in his civil suit.

Cassidy says he had a good relationship with Brookins until discovering well after the fact that fraudulent invoices were being sent to Cassidy's customers with money directed to Brookins' bank account.

Cassidy says he is fine with the sentence imposed Tuesday but adds he really was more interested in an apology from Brookins.

"As a victim, if you can hear 'I'm sorry', maybe that goes a lot further than any legal process - goes a lot further than any sentencing,'' he says.

"I've also learned that all we have in life is our name nad our reputation. And it's a short life and I now reflect today don't ever, if you can help it, tarnish your name and your reputation. It is very difficult to get it back no matter what you do.''

Brookins gave a conditional apology of sorts when he accepted the opportunity to speak in court just before learning his sentence.

"I feel very badly that it is a deal that has gone wrong between two people,'' he said.

"I feel very, very badly that it had to come to this.''

Outside the courthouse, Brookins elaborated on what he considers a business deal gone sour.

"I never thought it would ever come to this (fraud conviction) because there's a lot of money between the two of us,'' he says.

"We tried to resolve it and couldn't resolve it so therefore I had to evict him from the property because I was getting absolutely nothing in the way of currency. When that happened then it all sort of went south and whatever he and I were going to settle between the two of us went into the courts.''

After Brookins sold Trius Tours, a company he started in 1986, he was hired as general manager at a salary of $50,000 per year.

Keith soon sold his shares to Cassidy and 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 Garfield 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.