Construction contractors in the Eastern Townships are suing a French businesswoman, Angélique Lepêcheur, and accusing her of embezzling nearly $2 million from their businesses. After her stint at the helm of their companies as CEO, two of them are struggling to recover; another is preparing for bankruptcy, according to the owners.
“That lady, she’s too dangerous to let her.” She has no scruples. None”, plagues entrepreneur Ian Dufresne, met with his colleagues, shareholders of the GMI Construction Group, Déco Surfaces Couvre-Planchers Fana and Excavation KVN.
Including damages, all these companies are claiming nearly $2.8 million from Lepêcheur, its companies and its partners, in a lawsuit filed in Sherbrooke in October.
They also obtained the seizure before judgment of their assets in September. Revenu Québec also asked Desjardins to freeze the account of a Lepêcheur company, Immistra inc., to preserve the approximately $78,000 that the agency is claiming from it, the businesswoman acknowledges in an email from her lawyer to La Presse .
The entrepreneurs filed a complaint with the Sherbrooke police in November and January, then with the SQ in June, but remain without news. Police have not commented on the case.
La Presse contacted Angelique Lepêcheur by telephone. “I’m not going to be able to answer you,” she replied, before directing us to her lawyer Frédéric-Antoine Lemieux, who sent us court documents, produced in the hope of preventing the seizure of its assets.
According to one of her statements, “the accounting reproaches” against her “are unfounded and directly contradicted by invoices, accounting entries, well-established and accepted business practices [sic] as well as by statements emanating from the plaintiffs and their representatives themselves”.
The story of Angélique Lepêcheur in Quebec begins in 2018. A headhunter then offers her candidacy to GMI and Fana. The owners are looking for a general manager (GM) for their administrative tasks.
“They sold it to us saying, ‘She was running a big co-op in France under construction,'” says Ian Dufresne, one of the partners in both companies.
But the headhunting firm says nothing about the criminal complaint that the president of the French coop had filed eight months earlier with the Gendarmerie for “fraudulent acts” in the accounts of the organization of which she was CEO (see next tab ).
Far from suspecting it, the entrepreneurs hired him in April 2019, at $90,000 a year, with a car and a company phone.
According to the lawsuit, Lepêcheur convinces the entrepreneurs to establish a system that is closer to the cooperative, allowing them to pool their management and accounting, the Pôle Construction et Design.
Two other companies, Excavation KVN and Constructions J5, owned by other investors, are joining the organization as clients of Lepêcheur for its general management and accounting services in 2020. She therefore leads these companies as well.
On paper, things are going well. But in November 2019, Lepêcheur, although hired as an employee of GMI, demanded to exercise her functions as CEO of the companies of the Pole through her new company, Immistra. Entrepreneurs fold, according to their lawsuit.
The DG then recruits employees through its company, by re-invoicing their salaries to the companies of the Cluster to which it provides its general management and accounting services.
Then the information becomes scarcer, explain the entrepreneurs. “We started to doubt a little bit when she stopped giving us financial statements every month,” says Guillaume Fortin, owner of GMI with Ian Dufresne and his brother Mathieu.
In the winter of 2021, the shareholders of GMI and Fana had verifications carried out and discovered “several alarming anomalies” in the figures produced by the DG.
Strengthened by the control it exercises over the finances of the companies of the Construction Division, it would have diverted 2 million in various overbillings and checks issued without right, according to the prosecution of the entrepreneurs. In the fall of 2020, Lepêcheur even rented an Audi as a second company vehicle through GMI, without authorization.
From the summer of 2022, some suppliers begin to close their accounts because their payments are late, explain the entrepreneurs who met with La Presse. Lepêcheur no longer pays them.
“But she says to us: ‘Let me manage that, this pressure from suppliers'”, says Ian Dufresne.
She pays her own bills for her CEO and accounting “services” using her direct access to contractor accounts, they claim.
In August 2022, an external accountant informed a KVN shareholder, Vincent Normand-Parenteau, that his company was losing $91,832. Two days later, he breaks down in tears “as in his mind he is heading for bankruptcy,” the petition states. As CEO, however, Lepêcheur kept telling him that “everything [was] fine,” according to the suit.
GMI and Fana revoke all of Lepêcheur’s access to their systems and dismiss her as of June 2022.
“It took 10 minutes, she went upstairs, filled boxes of paperwork,” says Ian Dufresne. He then finds that legal and accounting documents have disappeared.
While no longer “neither a signatory nor authorized on the account,” she herself issued a check for $43,210 from Fana’s account to another company whose finances she still controls, the contractors’ petition claims.
As for KVN, the company removed Lepêcheur from his duties as CEO on August 24, 2022. Since then, it has recovered somehow from events, like GMI. But Fana “only has debts left”, laments Ian Dufresne. The company is preparing for imminent bankruptcy.
Sum that the CNESST requires in payment of unpaid vacation hours that the company of Angélique Lepêcheur and Nicolas Wajchert, Immistra inc., owes to a worker, Maryne Gaudin. The amount includes a penalty of $1341.
Eight months before being hired by entrepreneurs in Sherbrooke, Angélique Lepêcheur was at the heart of a criminal complaint on the other side of the Atlantic. In Brittany, other entrepreneurs have denounced “fraudulent actions” spread over years in the management of their materials purchasing cooperative, of which she was general manager until 2017.
La Presse obtained the complaint to the Gendarmerie made by the president of the MBR35 coop.
Contacted by La Presse, Lepêcheur’s lawyer in Quebec, Frédéric-Antoine Lemieux, points out that she has never been convicted in this case and that her legal file “is blank”.
However, the complaint is part of the evidence filed to support the contractors’ civil suit against Lepêcheur in Quebec. She notes several points in common with the actions for which they reproach her.
“At first it was going well with Angélique Lepêcheur, it evolved,” said the president of the coop, Hervé Maussion, in an interview. We bought a piece of land, with a building to build. »
Then the co-op had an addition built. Too much expansion, which resulted in ruinous cost overruns in 2014. “The co-op was running a deficit. Instead of explaining it to the members, she tampered with the stocks to improve the balance sheet,” says the president.
The organization finally realized something was wrong in 2016. MBR35 auditors discovered 300,000 euros (approximately C$433,000) in false deliveries accounted for. The general management had declared a net profit, but by redoing the calculations, they concluded a loss of 224,000 euros, indicates the complaint of Hervé Maussion.
By checking the accounts in more detail, over several years, the auditors concluded that there was a hole of 1.6 million euros for the years when she was in charge, explains the president in an interview.
“We tried to find out more, but she had destroyed all the documentation,” said Hervé Maussion. She had prepared her shot eight to ten months earlier, before things really got hot. Unfortunately, we have no documents that say she embezzled money. »
On the other hand, a court in Rennes condemned the audit firm which had confirmed the accounts carried out under its direction, RSM Ouest, to pay 47,855 euros to the coop. “The sum was really inadequate and unfair given the damage suffered,” laments the president. MBR35 claimed almost 1.3 million euros.
When Hervé Maussion filed his criminal complaint against her in April 2018, Lepêcheur had already given no sign of life for more than a year, he said. “Once we revoked it, we never saw it again. »
In November 2018, she arrived in Canada and obtained a work permit. She has been a permanent resident since October 2022, according to her statements in court.
Angélique Lepêcheur has not only alienated entrepreneurs. She is also facing the lawsuit of a couple from Sherbrooke who are claiming $ 915,205 from the businesswoman, her husband Nicolas Wajchert and their company Les Maisons Harmonie. The plaintiffs claim their dream home project turned into an embezzlement nightmare.
“They’ve been lying to us from the start,” Rachel Girard laments in an interview.
Like the companies that claim to be cheated, her spouse Jonathan Tétrault and she have just obtained the seizure before judgment of the assets of Lepêcheur and Wajchert.
In May 2022, they signed a package deal with Les Maisons Harmonie, their lawsuit says. According to the agreement, the company was to build their dream house on a wooded lot in Saint-Denis-de-Brompton, in the Eastern Townships, for 1.6 million. First scheduled for October 2022, delivery was delayed to February 2023, then the site was finally abandoned.
La Presse caught up with the couple in their sprawling, unfinished home. The kitchen is empty of any equipment; the water connection pipes come out of the floor right in the middle of the room, where the island should be. No trace of the cellar, which Harmonie nevertheless charged $5,000.
Site complications were the last thing the couple needed. Because a few weeks after the signing of the agreement, Rachel Girard learned that she has two chronic illnesses. “I have the potential to end up in a wheelchair,” she said.
So she asked Harmonie to change the plans to build a one-story house instead.
Construction hadn’t started yet, but Lepêcheur and Wajchert told the couple it was impossible, saying they had already “invested” $700,000 in the project, according to the Girard-Tétraults’ lawsuit.
Since the Girard-Tétraults had already paid a deposit of $165,000, they decided to go ahead anyway.
“In August 2022, construction began,” says Jonathan Tétrault. It was still going well at first. »
In December, however, the couple begins to be wary. Harmonie has already charged him almost 1.1 million, while the handover of the keys is delayed until March. More importantly, the hardware store the couple does business with, Rona Anctil, contacts him to tell him that $30,600 bills for the house, already two months old, are still outstanding. The Girard-Tétraults however assure that they have paid all their accounts.
After checking, they discover that the roofing, electrical, structural and supplier contractors would never have received their money, despite the million disbursed. In all, 22 companies are likely to claim a total of around $270,000, says Jonathan Tétrault.
Harmonie is however supposed to take care of all the bills. Wajchert nevertheless claims that the Girard-Tétraults are in arrears of $158,155, according to their lawsuit. He and Lepêcheur even tell subcontractors that the couple are not paying their bills, comments they consider “misleading and defamatory”.
Rachel Girard ended up paying an additional $50,000 to Maisons Harmonie using her line of credit to prevent a work stoppage despite her disagreement, then another $156,000 to prevent the project from being abandoned.
In the end, the couple claims to have received invoices for a series of equipment that was never delivered.
But Les Maisons Harmonie wants more money. In March, the couple receives a formal notice. The company’s attorney claims that Rachel Girard and Jonathan Tétrault still have to pay him $286,029 and announces that the company is “suspending the work”.
Then on June 6, a bailiff served them with a notice of seizure of their home to repay an alleged debt of $365,899 to Maisons Harmonie. But a week later, it was Rachel Girard and Jonathan Tétrault who obtained the seizure of the assets of Lepêcheur and Wajchert.
La Presse contacted the businesswoman, who refused to answer our questions. “We dispute the accusations made,” however, Lepêcheur and Wajchert said through their lawyer Frédéric-Antoine Lemieux.
Rachel Girard and Jonathan Tétrault filed a complaint with the Sûreté du Québec on June 5, at the MRC Val-Saint-François station, but an agent told them that there would be no investigation. Contacted by La Presse, the police did not comment on the case.
“We’re angry,” said Rachel Girard. I feel neglected by the police. With all the harm they’ve done, I don’t understand why they don’t do anything. We have evidence, but they will be able to get away with it easily. »
The Residential Construction Guarantee, which in principle protects buyers, ordered Maisons Harmonie at the end of June to complete the property before October 31, according to a letter received by the Girard-Tétraults. Failure to comply will be covered by the organization, but only up to a maximum cost of $300,000.
Too little to solve the couple’s nightmare with Lepêcheur and Wajchert. Because appraisers have estimated that it will cost him up to $500,000 to complete the work.
“It really affects me a lot,” laments Rachel Girard. My health is getting worse and worse and we are stuck. »