'System of sexual exploitation': Alleged victim of Quebec businessman sues for $8M
MONTREAL — An alleged victim of a prominent Quebec businessman accused of sexually exploiting minors and young adults has filed a lawsuit claiming he victimized her for nearly 20 years and first recruited her for sex when she was under 18.
Montreal-based law firm CaLex filed an $8-million lawsuit Wednesday naming Robert Miller, the company he founded — Future Electronics — two vice-presidents with the firm, and a downtown Montreal hotel where some sexual encounters allegedly took place.
The lawsuit says the complainant, identified as A.B., was a victim of his "planned system of sexual exploitation of minor or recently adult girls" and that she became dependent on the money and luxury he allegedly provided to her.
Miller stepped down as chairman and CEO of Future Electronics in February to focus on protecting his reputation amid reports that he allegedly gave young women — including some minors — cash, trips and extravagant gifts in exchange for sex between 1994 and 2006.
The reports by CBC and Radio-Canada spoke to 10 women, including six who were minors when they were allegedly paid for sex; other women came forward after the reports aired. The women described a recruitment system involving people close to Miller, with victims receiving expensive gifts and envelopes of cash in exchange for sex with him.
Miller has denied those allegations.
A.B.'s lawsuit makes similar claims, which have not been tested in court. She says she was a minor from a modest-income, immigrant family when she was recruited by a high school friend who told her about a large sum of money she had received from Miller. A.B. allegedly first had sex with Miller in 2001 at the Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal.
"The plaintiff, a minor in full adolescence, was at that time not only vulnerable, but also easily influenced and impressionable," the lawsuit says.
Over the years, A.B. was allegedly lavished with gifts, including travel to New York City and Disney World, a vehicle, luxury clothing and paid apartments. These gifts were in addition to alleged sums paid for sexual relations.
She attempted to leave Quebec to make a new life for herself, but each time returned to the province after Miller cut off financial assistance, the lawsuit says.
"It was therefore difficult, if not impossible, for the plaintiff to get out of this vicious circle and to experience pleasure in living a life like the one she had known in her youth," the lawsuit claims.
"Miller used money and material possessions to control the emotions and behaviour of the plaintiff, a young vulnerable girl who found it difficult to feel pleasure outside of the … reward system intentionally exploited by Robert Miller."
The lawsuit says she cut off contact with Miller in 2016. But in 2022, she was allegedly offered money by his representatives after she told them she had been contacted by CBC and Radio-Canada, the lawsuit says.
It alleges that two longtime vice-presidents at Future Electronics — Sam Joseph Abrams and Helmut Lippmann — acted as intermediaries for Miller. It says the two executives "actively participated in the activities of the network and that they knew or at least should have known the direct consequences of these activities on the victims."
The suit also names the Queen Elizabeth hotel; lawyers for A.B. argue that hotel employees or management should have known young girls were visiting Miller on a regular basis inside hotel suites.
A.B. is seeking a total of $1 million in compensatory damages from Miller, Abrams and Lippmann; $500,000 from both Abrams and Lippmann in punitive damages; $5 million from Miller in punitive damages; and $250,000 from the hotel.
Requests for comment were not returned Thursday from representatives for Miller, Future Electronics or the hotel.
In past media statements, Future Electronics has said that Miller "adamantly and vehemently denies the malicious allegations made against him" and that they are "false and wholly unsubstantiated."
Montreal police investigated allegations against Miller in 2008 and 2009 and submitted a file to the provincial prosecution service. Prosecutors have confirmed they did not pursue charges.
In February, Consumer Law Group filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of alleged victims of Miller. That lawsuit names Miller and Future Electronics and seeks $1.5 million in punitive damages per alleged victim as well as additional claims for psychological damage.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2023.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press