Robert Whitebean’s long journey through the court system as part of Project Malbec ended Friday with a guilty plea, fine and some community service. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)
After almost four years of court dates, hearings and stress after being arrested, Robert Whitebean pleaded guilty in a Longueuil courtroom Friday.
Whitebean was the only defendant remaining of those arrested for fraud in May, 2015 as part of Operation Malbec that targeted the First Nations Winery and its owner Floyd Lahache.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” said Whitebean. “I would have had to go for another year-and-a-half to two years if I wanted to fight it.”
According to the statement of facts Whitebean, the former general manager of the FNW, pleaded guilty to, he “became aware that the taxes, GST and QST, were no longer collected, nor surrendered to the competent authorities during purchases made by customers and resellers of the FNW.”
The facts also read that he discussed the situation with Lahache and co-owner Luca Gaspari, who “told him not to meddle in this business.”
Whitebean was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and serve 100 hours of community service within his six months probation.
Gaspari and Lahache pleaded guilty to their fraud charges in December.
Whitebean told The Eastern Door that he would fight the charges in the past, but was exhausted by the lengthy case.
“It’s just annoying,” said Whitebean. “You can’t leave the country, you can’t go anywhere, I can’t go to Ontario, I wasn’t allowed to move anywhere. Four years, I was only allowed to stay in one place… Even when my dad died, I wasn’t allowed to be there when he died. I had to wait a week later, to go through the court system before I could even go to Alberta just to get on the plane.”