Wife spent $1.5 million on slot machines, divorce case hears

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A Surrey man doesn’t believe his wife took up to $1.5 million from family companies to play slot machines for stress relief.

But a BC Supreme Court judge disagrees.

Trevor Charles Brien believes Regina Maria Brien took the money as part of a “vindictive” plan to take family assets in anticipation of the marriage ending. He believes she sent some of the money the Cayman Islands banking haven, BC Supreme Court documents said.

Trevor Brien claims his estranged wife has used depression as a cover story for a sophisticated and multifaceted scheme that allowed her to take the money.

However, casino cheques tendered as evidence indicate $133,505 was returned to company accounts.

“When Ms. Brien brought cheques home, they were ‘celebrated’ by the family,” Justice Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten said in her March 12 ruling posted March 19. “She sometimes kept copies for everyone to see. From her perspective, her gambling habits were openly discussed.”

DeWitt-Van Oosten found Regina Brien’s gambling, which occurred between 2005 and 2010, “was driven by, and in response to, her psychological and emotional stress.”

“It provided her with temporary (albeit superficial) relief and enabled her to escape her distress,” DeWitt-Van Oosten ruled. “I reject the theory that Ms. Brien has embellished her emotional vulnerability during the marriage to disguise a more sinister intent; namely, a deliberate taking and hiding of money in anticipation of the parties’ separation.”

The couple married in March 1990 and separated in January 2010. In their 20 years together, they built the profitable importing company Westview Sales Ltd. selling products from China and India.

However, for a variety of reasons, the marriage began to deteriorate in about 1996.

The case is slowly making its way toward divorce court while companies and properties are put up for sale and millions of dollars in assets are divided.

As of May 1, 2017, the combined fair market value of Westview and the affiliated entities was estimated at up to $4.6 million.

Trevor Brien testified his wife’s use of company funds for gambling reduced the company’s cash flow, affecting its ability to maintain enough stock to meet customer needs.

However, DeWitt-Van Oosten noted, dividing the assets means addressing Trevor Brien’s claim that his wife “misappropriated a minimum $1.6 million from Westview and breached a fiduciary duty when she withdrew this money and must account for the ‘stolen’ funds.”

Brien is also “adamant there was US$101,000 in a safety deposit box, not US$62,000 as claimed by Ms. Brien. He claims she pocketed the rest.

And, while she said he was fully aware of her gambling, he called it an after-the-fact justification “to divert attention from a deliberate and purposeful dissipation of family assets.”

DeWitt-Van Oosten said Westview’s unaudited financial statements for 2009 and 2010 (the year of separation) showed an increase from $2,901,798 to $3,093,413.

While divorce proceedings are on hold, DeWitt-Van Oosten ordered Regina Brien to pay her husband $331,495 arising out of her breach of fiduciary duty, $38,992 for the cost of a forensic accounting report, $44,196 for the cost of post-separation repairs to a home and $13,207 for property taxes paid for a Cariboo recreation property, among other costs.

Trevor Brien was ordered to pay his wife, among other costs, $76,271.29 in retroactive spousal support and $6,000 per month in spousal support.