Naive Intention

One of my legal colleagues referred to me as a “naive dupe” over this front page legal news. I blew up, blowing my cover. Easier to play the timid, the doddering and the gullible, the older one gets. Easier to layer underlying truths. Guess I am getting quite good at it; such a naive dupe, of course. Today’s reaction reminding me of the ease of empty self-confidence of the secondary school social packs, thinking they all were so very smart. One thinks it; the others follow. The true collective soul, with blinkers.

I once was directed by Herbert Whittaker. He would have seen this one; I believe he would have said that I had improved.


Colleague gives missing lawyer benefit of doubt

Law Times of Canada
Monday, June 20, 2011 | Written by Kenneth Jackson | |

Bruce La Rochelle first met fellow Ottawa lawyer Luc Barrick last summer when they were opposing counsel in a real estate case.

La Rochelle was impressed with Barrick’s attention to detail, and the pair soon became friends. By the fall La Rochelle was assisting Barrick on some files.

By January, he was volunteering to help Barrick, 43, while racking up about 70 hours of free work because his colleague was suffering from complications from knee surgery related to his hemophilia.

Their relationship began to take a different turn after Barrick failed to return from a trip to Paris on May 15 as scheduled and didn’t respond to La Rochelle’s phone calls or e-mails.

It turned out Barrick has several complaints against him from clients alleging they were missing trust account money to the tune of more than $300,000.

In the meantime, the Law Society of Upper Canada successfully won a court order earlier this month to take over his practice. It also suspended Barrick’s licence to practise law.

Barrick quickly denied the allegations in a statement but up until recently had been unreachable, even by LSUC.

Still, La Rochelle hopes the evidence will show Barrick is telling the truth and says he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

“He hasn’t been charged with anything and, to the best of my knowledge, is not currently subject to disbarment proceedings,” La Rochelle told Law Times in an e-mail. “What if it turns out that everything [Barrick] is saying is true, particularly in relation to the trust funds?”

In a statement, Barrick said he wasn’t able to return to Ottawa as scheduled because his health problems are too severe. He also claimed to have learned of the allegations through the media.

“Apparently, there is an allegation that trust moneys have been misappropriated by myself in the amount of $300,000,” said Barrick.

“This is simply untrue and a complete falsehood. Let me be perfectly clear, notwithstanding my serious health situation, which was beyond my control, I did take all responsible and reasonable steps regarding the dissolution of my firm before going on indefinite sick leave.”

Clients aren’t missing just money but also original documents that are important to ongoing cases, according to an affidavit filed June 1 in Toronto.

The law society is now trying to find the missing money, but Barrick says he knows exactly where they can find it.

“I have already notified the [LSUC] that the trust moneys in question, which by the way does not total $300,000, was invested into an investment property,” he said.

That property is located at 324 Laurier Ave. in Ottawa. The condo is in Barrick’s name and is listed for sale at $469,000.

According to court documents, however, one of Barrick’s clients allegedly didn’t receive credit for making a deposit on a real estate deal.

“This information shows [Barrick] may have used a portion of the $200,000 to purchase the above noted condo unit,” forensic auditor Prospero Vito wrote in reference to the Laurier Avenue property.

But Barrick said that when the property sells, it should fetch enough cash to cover the trust money.

Other clients claim to have lost large sums of money as well. There’s a British Columbia client, for example, who alleges to have paid a $10,000 retainer for services but hasn’t been able to get a hold of Barrick.

Then there’s a client who claims to have received $27,000 less than should have been the case in a marriage settlement. Another is allegedly still waiting for a $78,000 payment.

Barrick is a law graduate from the common law program at the University of Ottawa. His ex-wife is legal counsel with the Supreme Court of Canada. The pair has two sons.

But Barrick claims he did everything he could to look out for his clients.
“I am obviously very saddened and horrified by this news,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems obvious to me now that there is a major misunderstanding of the situation.”

He’s also apologizing to his clients and anyone else harmed by what has happened.
“I never intended for any of this to happen. I have devoted my life to public service and to the practice of the law.”

In the meantime, La Rochelle is waiting for answers and notes Barrick still owes him money.

“I keep hoping that what [Barrick] is saying can be substantiated.”
______________________________________________________________________
Postscript, February 11, 2012: Luc Barrick is back in the news. Herbert Whittaker would likely see my performance as straight, but flat:

Former Ottawa lawyer resurfaces running language school in France

By Chris Cobb
The Ottawa Citizen, February 9, 2012

OTTAWA — An Ottawa lawyer who left town suddenly last year leaving behind a pile of debt and unpaid bills has resurfaced in France with a new name and new profession.

Luc Barrick, a dual French-Canadian citizen, is apparently running a virtual language school with a female partner named Liselle Anzala.

The former federal Conservative candidate has changed his name to Luc Edmund Messin — Messin is his mother’s maiden name — and is advertising himself as principal of something called the Ashbury language school.

The website, spotted earlier this week by Barrick’s former partner and former good friend Grant Poulsen, is http://www.ashbury.fr. The website was active until Wednesday evening, but by Thursday morning was no longer accessible. It said the school used the Callan Method of language training and promised students they could learn English “in a quarter of the time”.

Barrick/Messin, a divorced father of two children, who still live in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, did not respond to phone or email messages Thursday from The Citizen.

He left Ottawa in March last year allegedly owing at least $300,000 to various clients and several thousand dollars to former partner Poulsen and fellow lawyer Bruce La Rochelle.

La Rochelle volunteered to help Barrick, after Barrick began having health problems in January last year. Barrick left for France in March last year, telling La Rochelle he would return to Ottawa several weeks later, on May 15. La Rochelle has not heard from him since.

“There is a pattern here that goes back several years,” said La Rochelle Thursday, “and that is of most concern to me, as a lawyer. Every time something like this happens, the public looks at you and says ‘you’re just a bunch of flashy con artists.’ That’s regrettable, to put it mildly.”

Barrick told The Citizen last June that he suffers from chronic hemophilia and had left Canada because of “a complete body shutdown”.

“I am very ill and tired and totally burned out from years of overworking while feeling sick,” he said in an email exchange with The Citizen, adding that he was “saddened and horrified” his reputation was being tarnished.

“The trust monies, allegedly misappropriated, never came into my hands, and certainly not a single penny came with me to France,” he added.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates lawyers in Ontario, closed Barrick’s law practice and, through forensic accounting, was attempting last summer to trace funds from the empty trust fund of his law practice.

The Society has apparently made no move to discipline him, and refused to elaborate, in a written statement to The Citizen:

“Where misconduct is alleged, the Law Society will investigate and will initiate formal discipline where warranted,” said the statement. “The Law Society does not comment on specific complaints or investigations.”

“The reality is,” added La Rochelle, “he could return, pay his fees and say he is in good standing. Self regulation of the legal profession should be revisited.”

Barrick’s former partner Poulsen said Thursday that he has had no contact with Barrick since their law partnership dissolved five years ago.

“Given that there is a substantial amount of money missing, I don’t know why there has been no disciplinary proceedings nor police investigation,” said Poulsen, who was best man at Barrick’s wedding and is godfather to one of his children.

When Poulsen dissolved the partnership, he said Barrick stayed at the firm’s office and collected rent from other tenants but did not pay the money to the building’s landlord. Poulsen said he repaid the money.

“It’s substantial money,” said Poulsen, ”but there’s not much point in chasing after it, because I am in a long line of creditors. You can’t get blood from a stone.”

Under treaty, Canadian citizens can be extradited to France but the arrangement is not reciprocal.

Postscript, March 5, 2012:

It keeps murmuring:

Lawyer’s clients out of luck
Luc Barrick resurfaces at Paris language school as condo nets just $52K
The Law Times, Monday, March 05, 2012 | Written by Kenneth Jackson
A missing Ottawa lawyer resurfaced briefly under a new name in Paris last month while many of his former clients still wait to get their money back as efforts by the Law Society of Upper Canada have recovered only a small portion of the missing funds.

A screen capture saved from the Ashbury School of English web site indicates what Luc Barrick, identified here as Luc Messin, has been up to in France. Luc Barrick — or Luc Messin, as he was recently calling himself — appeared briefly last month as the president of the Ashbury School of English, a language school in Paris. When contacted by e-mail on Feb. 8, Barrick didn’t respond. Hours later, the web site ashbury.fr [http://www.ashbury.fr] was shut down.

Barrick first made the news last summer after he disappeared and left a trail of upset clients and mystery in his wake. Clients claimed he owed them at least $300,000 that was supposed to be in trust. To date, they’ve recovered only a fraction of that money.

Barrick said he was going to France, where he holds citizenship, due to an illness. He failed to return to Canada as promised by May 15.

In a statement, Barrick said he wasn’t able to return to Ottawa as scheduled because his health problems were too severe. He denied doing anything wrong with his clients’ money.

“Apparently, there is an allegation that trust moneys have been misappropriated by myself in the amount of $300,000,” said Barrick.

“This is simply untrue and a complete falsehood. Let me be perfectly clear, notwithstanding my serious health situation, which was beyond my control, I did take all responsible and reasonable steps regarding the dissolution of my firm before going on indefinite sick leave.”

Barrick suffered complication from knee surgery related to his hemophilia. He’s a law graduate from the common law program at the University of Ottawa. As for the money, he said selling an Ottawa condo would allow clients to recover the missing money.

That property at 324 Laurier Ave. in Ottawa went up for sale at $469,000. In the meantime, the LSUC obtained a court order to seize control of Barrick’s practice and suspended his licence.

It went a step further in August by registering a caution on the condo at the land registry office in Ottawa, according to documents obtained by Law Times. The LSUC then asked the court to remove the caution on Nov. 8, 2011, so the property could sell under a power of sale.

However, the sale shortly after resulted in net proceeds of $51,564, a far cry from the total amount of money claimed by clients.

A spokeswoman for the law society says the regulator has taken the necessary steps to retrieve the missing money or will be doing so. “Some funds have been recovered as a result of the trusteeship,” says the LSUC’s Susan Tonkin.

“It would be premature to state whether or not additional funds might be available, but our efforts are ongoing. We will report to the court as required. In general, the law society does whatever it can to recover money that one of its licensees is alleged to have taken from clients.”

Tonkin notes the LSUC seeks a trusteeship when lawyers abandon their practice or “there are reasonable grounds for believing that the lawyer has dealt improperly with client funds or property.”

So far, the law society has obtained 181 boxes of documents and five computers from Barrick’s office and homes. In the meantime, former clients and other parties seeking money, files or property have made 39 inquiries and requests.

In Barrick’s two trust accounts, the law society recovered $3,814. But following a preliminary examination of his books and records, “it appears that it will not be possible to reconcile the trust account to create an accurate client trust liability listing,” Lina Caldaroni, an officer with the LSUC’s trustee services department, said in an affidavit filed in the ongoing court matter involving the law society and Barrick.

Two days after the Ashbury web site went down, it was back up but without Barrick’s picture and details. But a saved version shows a picture of Barrick smiling in a section on the school’s team.

Next to his picture is a description of Barrick as being born and educated in Canada with degrees in history and law. The site notes he’s a fluently bilingual lawyer with 10 years’ experience.

A search of the web site also shows some of his information remains there. By searching the name Luc, a photo of him appears.

One person who held out hope for Barrick was fellow Ottawa lawyer Bruce La Rochelle. He gave him the benefit of the doubt when Barrick never returned from France.

La Rochelle had been helping Barrick, someone he called a friend, with his work before he left. Now that Barrick hasn’t returned but has resurfaced in such a prominent way, La Rochelle says the entire situation is tragic.

“Some people have very high degrees of negative sentiment towards Luc, sometimes bordering on the obsessive, given how shabbily he treated so many who were close to him,” says La Rochelle, who claims Barrick owes him several thousand dollars.

“Others regard his situation as primarily tragic. I see myself in the latter category, despite having been burned financially just like so many others.”

For more, see “Colleague gives missing lawyer benefit of doubt.” [/201106208514/Headline-News/Colleague-gives-missing-lawyer-benefit-of-doubt]

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About brucelarochelle

Practising Lawyer and Part-Time University Instructor (Accounting, Commercial Law, Organizational Behaviour); Part-Time Federal Tribunal Member. Non-practising Chartered Professional Accountant (Chartered Accountant and Certified Management Accountant).
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One Response to Naive Intention

  1. Maggie Keith says:

    I can only conclude that you liked this man as a person and enjoyed his company.

    It is painful and humiliating when circumstances reveal that a charming person is actually a sociopath, which appears to be true in this instance. No one likes to feel foolish, and there is also regret at the end of friendship.

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