Robin St. Martin, the president of a large Ottawa-based private security firm, has pleaded guilty to knowingly passing on a forged document after he submitted a fake IOU for almost $25,000 as part of a small claims lawsuit against a former employee.
The woman he was attempting to sue, Robin Yates, 31, said she was disappointed when she found out St. Martin, 50, received a conditional discharge for his crime.
"He was given a very lenient slap-on-the-wrist sentence by the judge. It was treated as though he walked into the bank with a cheque," said Yates. "It was treated like a victimless crime."
Yates said St. Martin also sent her abusive emails, including one suggesting she make pornographic films in order to pay off her debt to him.
Further charges of criminal harassment, perverting the course of justice and another count of uttering a forged document against St. Martin were dropped before he entered his guilty plea in January.
Due to COVID-19, his sentencing was delayed until this summer and Yates only recently learned the outcome.
Abusive emails sent
Iron Horse Security employs more than 1,800 people and lists security guards and private investigators among its services. It currently has contracts to provide protection services to Parliament Hill.
Yates started working for St. Martin in 2015, managing a side business he owned called Capital City Painters. In 2016, St. Martin offered to sell Yates the company for $75,000.
Despite concerns about the business's profitability, Yates agreed. She said she set up a corporation to buy the company so that she would not be personally liable if the venture didn't work out.
Within a few months of the purchase, a client defaulted on a contract and Yates was unable to make her monthly payments to St. Martin.
In the agreed statement of facts, the court heard that St. Martin tried to collect the client's debt himself by sending a letter posing as a senior litigator. When that failed, he asked that Yates take out a loan to pay him back, which she refused to do.
He sent her a string of abusive emails in which he insulted Yates's intelligence, calling her "a f--king idiot" and telling her "you are like a sequel to Dumb and Dumber." CBC has seen the emails.
He also taunted her about her weight, writing in one email he intended to set up a rival company under her name. He said he would give her a job, writing, "I can use a sturdy, hefty and ruggedly built workhorse such as yourself."
He also warned Yates that he would use the courts to recover the money she owed him.
"You deceived me, stole from me, profited from my generosity. Now you will feel my wrath, to the fullest of my legal capabilities," he wrote on Aug. 9, 2017.
Make pornos to pay off debt, employee told
In another email St. Martin said he expected to have "a lifelong relationship" with Yates as he sought to have her future wages garnisheed, suggesting on Aug. 24 that Yates could make a porno to pay off her debt to him.
"If you cleaned yourself up a bit, hit the gym etc, you could probably make a few [pornos] yourself and pay off your debt to me in a timely manner. If you do go that route, send me the links."
St. Martin acknowledged the conversation "got heated on both sides."
In an email to CBC, he wrote: "I am responsible for the words I used. I am embarrassed and apologize for lashing out in an inappropriate way.
"I hope that those who know me, can look past this momentary lapse in judgment."
St. Martin said he was the victim of "many outlandish and completely unsubstantiated harassment complaints" by Yates, and "to end this ongoing and very stressful ordeal, I plead guilty to a charge of uttering a forged document (not forgery and nothing to do with harassment or abuse of any kind) simply so that I could move on with my life."
He said he tried to communicate with Yates professionally "before things really turned negative," and provided CBC with text messages he said he wrote to Yates. "I've never been mean to you once. I asked you politely to get caught up on your payments," he wrote in one. "I'm not asking you to go bankrupt. I'm asking you to clear what you owe," read another.
St. Martin told CBC that "the issue with Miss Yates is the only such type of legal dispute I've ever been involved in which has turned personal."
Court records show that St. Martin and Iron Horse have filed almost two dozen lawsuits against individuals and companies dating back nearly 20 years, which St. Martin said is "not unusual" for a company of its size.
One was against two former Iron Horse employees for more than $700,000. Among its claims is a request for damages against a female executive for only giving two weeks notice, rather than six, when she resigned from the company, and for the "conspiracy" of her resignation's timing.
"She not only provided inadequate notice of her resignation … but also provided that notice the day that Iron Horse's President left for a week's vacation in the Bahamas," according to the statement of claim.
The lawsuit demanded damages of $20,000 to reimburse St. Martin for the cost of his vacation, as well as cell phone and data charges he incurred while dealing with the issue. It was settled out of court.
Sexter threatens to visit
The court heard that around the same time St. Martin sent the abusive emails, Yates's image and phone number appeared on social media sites linked to prostitution activities.
Yates said within a few days of an ad appearing on Backpages she received hundreds of sexually explicit messages, including one from a texter who said he would pay her for sex, knew her home address and could come visit her there.
"I was petrified," Yates said. "I felt like my life every day was looking over my shoulder…. Every day was torture."
The court heard no direct evidence to link St. Martin to the sex ad or the texts that Yates received.
But Yates believes St. Martin was responsible because the anonymous texter called her "fat" and mentioned her father's first name, which some of the emails he sent had also done.
She reported the harassment to police, but said at first they failed to act on her complaint. Her family grew so worried that her father, Larry Yates, also wrote to police asking them to investigate his daughter's situation.
"It made me feel desperate because I couldn't see how I could help her … she was totally distraught," Larry Yates said.
St. Martin told CBC the harassment allegations, including the sex ad complaint, were "thoroughly investigated" and "no charges were laid/successful."
Forged document submitted to court
Two weeks before Christmas 2017 Yates was served with the small claims lawsuit that included as evidence her forged signature on a promissory note agreeing to pay St. Martin $24,750.
She contacted the Ottawa police fraud department and charges were laid in 2018. Two years later, St. Martin pleaded guilty to uttering a forged document.
The Crown argued for a conditional jail sentence, saying St. Martin's actions were "purely about power".
"It takes a lot of — I don't even want to say guts, because that's not the right word — blind courage and blind faith in your own power and ability, to deceive not only Miss Yates, but the justice system," assistant crown attorney Sabrina Goldfarb said.
But St. Martin's lawyers argued a criminal conviction would mean the loss of his private investigator's licence and prevent him from owning Iron Horse Security, which would have an impact on his many employees.
"Mr. St. Martin is not running a mom-and-pop show with two office staff and 300 square feet of office space," Bruce Engel told the court. In his sentencing submission, Engel also cited St. Martin's charitable work and his acknowledgement of remorse by pleading guilty.
In the end, Justice Norman Boxall agreed with the defence, delivering a conditional discharge with 12 months probation.
"It makes me think of some of the issues surrounding the SNC [Lavalin] situation," Boxall had said during the arraignment.
"We have a successful company, and an offence has been committed and we want accountability and transparency, we want it dealt with, but at the same time unfortunately in certain cases there can be consequences to a large number of innocent people."
Yates said she's frustrated by the judge's decision.
"I don't see how that's a good deterrent for [St. Martin] not to do it again," she said. "Thinking of how much he was able to make me suffer … you know, he might just sit back and say, 'That was worth it.'"