A former Moncton economic development agency executive faces 19 charges of fraud, theft, possession of property obtained by crime and money laundering in connection with allegations he defrauded businesses over several years before disappearing.
Daniel Bard, 57, was vice-president of investment attraction for 3+ Corporation between 2016 and 2018.
In 2019, CBC reported Bard was accused by several business owners and individuals of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in administrative and brokerage fees while working for the municipally-funded agency, but failing to deliver on promises and then disappearing.
Bard was scheduled to make his first appearance on the charges Wednesday morning in Moncton provincial court. He wasn’t in court but had a lawyer there representing him.
Dustin Caissie requested an adjournment until September.
“I understand the disclosure is quite lengthy,” Caissie said, referring to the evidence in the case Crown prosecutors are required to disclose to the defense.
Caissie told Judge Paul Duffie he was appearing on behalf of lawyer TJ Burke, who Bard has hired to represent him.
Duffie adjourned the case until Sept. 23. Bard is not in custody and court documents show he resides at an address in Saint-Basile in northwestern New Brunswick.
The charges laid this week allege he defrauded five companies of more than $5,000, attempted to defraud another company, and stole from six companies.
The charges also allege that he had a Dieppe house, an Audi A4 and four Harley-Davidson motorcycles that were obtained with the proceeds of a crime.
He faces one count of money laundering the proceeds of crime.
All of the charges allege the crimes happened between January 2016 and Dec. 31, 2020.
Bard has never publicly commented on the allegations against him.
“We intend to fully defend him and make the Crown prove each and every essential element of the charges against him,” Burke told CBC by phone.
An RCMP investigation was launched after Dieppe business owners went to the police. It wasn’t clear where Bard had gone for several years.
Police said Bard was arrested in Edmundston on March 2.
Bard had worked as executive director of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, an environmental charity, for about a year until he was let go in 2016 for failing to raise funds.
Bard was then hired by 3+, the regional economic development organization for the municipalities of Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview, in July 2016.
Sally and Clinton Davis owned the Glamor Secrets salon in Dieppe’s CF Champlain mall. In 2017, after several years in business, they were nearing the end of a franchise agreement and went to 3+ for advice on other potential investments.
They were assigned to Bard despite his role being to attract investment from outside the province to the Moncton area.
Bard, the couple said in 2019, proposed to help them open their own line of salons, a beauty school and a beauty products warehouse for an online store.
Bard asked them to pay his own company, VM Venture Management Corp., $25,000 US as a brokerage fee. They said he offered to secure them a loan of $8 million to $13 million to get the project started.
In September 2017, they gave him a bank draft for the brokerage fee, but the loan never materialized. A check he wrote in 2019 to repay the couple bounced. They estimated that they lost thousands after purchasing equipment and supplies for the project.
The couple reported him to the police in August 2019.
Both Sali and Clinton, as well as supporters, were in court for Bard’s first appearance in the hopes of seeing his face.
Saly told reporters she was disappointed he wasn’t there and that there was such a lengthy adjournment in the case. Saly said she hopes the case goes to trial so all the details go public.
“I’m going to see this through to the end,” Saly said. “Come hell or high water, I’m going to see this through to the end, even if he flees again.”
Saly has said they want more accountability from 3+ over Bard’s actions.
Susy Campos, who became CEO of 3+ after Bard had already left the agency, ordered an outside investigation that resulted in a 13-page report in 2020 that raised questions about how Bard was hired.
“There is no evidence supporting an allegation that Bard was acting as an authorized representative of the Corporation while engaging in the impugned activities,” Fredericton lawyer Joël Michaud said in the report.
Several businesses filed civil lawsuits naming Bard over the years.
Charlo-based HIL Group paid Bard $130,000 in 2017. Bard promised the company an investment to help with a project to transform organic waste into bio-fuel pellets, but the money never came. HIL Group sued and won its case in 2019. Bard did not file a statement of defense or attend court.
A representative of the company declined to comment outside the Moncton courthouse Wednesday.