Class action against Quebec businessman accused of allegedly paying minors for sex

MONTREAL — A Montreal law firm has filed an application for a class-action lawsuit against a prominent Quebec businessman accused of allegedly paying minors for sex.

Consumer Law Group is representing the lead plaintiff, a Montreal woman who was 17 at the time she allegedly met Robert G. Miller and saw him about 10 times for sex over a two-year period.

The lawsuit targets Miller and the Montreal-based company he helped found, Future Electronics, for $1.5 million in punitive damages per alleged victim. There are additional claims for psychological damage, including $1 million for the lead plaintiff and amounts to be determined for the other alleged victims.

Earlier this month, Miller announced he was stepping down from his role as chairman and CEO of the company to focus on protecting his reputation amid allegations — originally reported by Radio-Canada and the CBC — that he allegedly gave girls aged 14 to 17 cash and gifts in exchange for sex between 1994 and 2006.

Miller has denied the allegations, describing them in a statement as malicious and "false and wholly unsubstantiated." Multiple attempts to reach Miller on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Future Electronics did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and none of the allegations have been proven in court. The class action will require the authorization of a judge.

Jeffrey Orenstein, the lawyer leading the lawsuit, is encouraging people to come forward and offering them anonymity.

"I think the message is to speak out if you have any relevant information, whether you were yourself a victim or you know something," he said.

The unnamed lead plaintiff in the case was not one of the women who came forward in media reports.

"We decided to file a class action because it seems fairly clear from what we know so far that there will be more than one person involved in this, other than our client," Orenstein said in an interview.

According to the filing, the woman met Miller when she was 17 and had ongoing sexual relations with him until the age of 19, meeting about two or three times per year. The filing alleges Miller identified himself as an American businessman named Bob Adams who travelled frequently to Montreal.

The plaintiff was allegedly recruited by Miller through a newspaper advertisement seeking models.

According to the filing, each time they had sex, Miller would allegedly give her an envelope with between $1,000 to $2,000 cash, and in one instance, $3,000. During their last meeting, he allegedly gave her a watch and showed her a negative HIV test under a different name, which caused the plaintiff some concern.

The plaintiff felt bad about herself, felt guilty and depressed, and self-medicated with drugs and alcohol.

"She was never in a state of mind to be able to take action before today," the filing says. "First, she did know (the defendant's) real name and second, she had too much emotional scarring and repression. Now, she realizes that she was not alone in her experience and wishes to come forward to help others get justice."

Earlier this month, Future Electronics issued a statement announcing Miller's departure from the company to deal with allegations and serious health issues. The statement said Miller "adamantly and vehemently denies the malicious allegations made against him," adding they are "false and wholly unsubstantiated'' and arose during a "bitter divorce.''

Headquartered in Montreal, Future Electronics describes itself as a "global leader in electronics distribution,'' with 5,500 employees and 170 offices in 44 countries.

The company said a Montreal police investigation determined the allegations were unfounded.

Montreal police have confirmed they had investigated allegations against Miller in 2008-09 and submitted a file to the provincial prosecution service to determine if charges were warranted. Quebec's prosecutor's office confirmed in early February it did not pursue charges.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2023.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press