Calgary contractor guilty of forgery tells judge he ‘screwed up’

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A Calgary contractor who did work on the HGTV show Property Brothers apologized in court and told a judge he “screwed up” as he pleaded guilty to charges of forgery. 

Last summer, Alan Hrehirchuk, 54, was charged with fraud and forgery. 

On Monday, the fraud charges were withdrawn after the contractor pleaded guilty to forgery for issuing fake subcontractor invoices to a couple who had hired Hrehirchuk’s company to do a major renovation on their home.

After hearing arguments from prosecutor Greg Whiteside and defence lawyer Cory Wilson, Justice Harry Van Harten granted Hrehirchuk a conditional discharge, which means a conviction won’t be registered on his record. 

‘2 stupid mistakes’

The defence argued for a discharge, in part, because of the fallout from the publication of several news stories alerting the public to Hrehirchuk’s criminal charges.

“I accept that he has suffered and will continue to suffer significantly as a result of … making two stupid mistakes,” said Van Harten. 

“Negative publicity … can have a punishing effect on offenders. This offender will not receive a criminal record today.”

In December 2022, Carlos Camara and wife, Beatriz Ibarra, hired Hrehirchuk and his company, Envision Custom Renovations.

Camara told CBC News he signed a contract for a $170,000 house renovation. The couple say they paid a $50,000 deposit and more than $50,000 in invoices over the next several months.

Camara told CBC News he became suspicious of the job being done by Envision after learning months into their business relationship that city permits had not yet been issued. 

Those concerns led to Camara discovering the invoices that had been provided by Hrehirchuk were forgeries. 

‘A crime of dishonesty’

On Monday, Hrehirchuk admitted that on April 16, 2023, he forged invoices from two suppliers, altering previous invoices the companies had sent for other projects, “which made it appear that the invoice was in relation to the victim’s property,” according to the agreed statement of facts filed as part of the guilty plea. 

The content of the documents were for “legitimate supplies” needed for Camara’s renovation, according to the statement of facts. 

Hrehirchuk then requested payment of $20,000 from the couple. 

“This is a crime of dishonesty,” said Whiteside in arguing Hrehirchuk should serve a conditional sentence with a portion of the six-month term on house arrest followed by a curfew. 

“We have a sequence of lies that ultimately resulted in the forgery.”

A ‘1-time mistake’

The judge and Crown both noted that financial losses to the victims also came in the form of having to pay a second contractor to finish their renovations. 

But defence lawyer Cory Wilson said his client made a “one-time mistake” and argued the situation was “not a classical contractor scam.”

Wilson asked that his client be discharged, meaning a conviction won’t be registered.

“This is not a situation where [Hrehirchuk] took it, put it in his pocket and ran away with it,” said Wilson.

“The company grew too big, too quickly.”

‘Horrific, foolish, stupid mistake’

Suppliers started requiring Hrehirchuk to pay up front, which he couldn’t do, so he forged the invoices because he was embarrassed to ask for the money up front, said Wilson. 

That was a “horrific, foolish, stupid mistake,” which the defence lawyer said “has now destroyed [Hrehirchuk’s] life.”

“He’s completely bankrupt.”

Hrehirchuk was given the chance to address the court and said he was sorry.

“I screwed up,” said Hrehirchuk. “I’m truly sorry, I screwed up majorly, and it’s cost me pretty much everything.”

Letter of apology

Van Harten also ordered Hrehirchuk to write a letter of apology to his victims. 

But Camara and Ibarra aren’t the only ones who say they were victimized by Hrehirchuk and Envision. 

Following initial reports of his criminal charges, Calgary police said they were investigating after about a dozen people reported that they’d been victimized by Hrehirchuk. 

Last summer, CBC News spoke with several people who alleged they were victims, including former employees and clients.

Two homeowners said Hrehirchuk used a Property Brothers celebrity endorsement to entice clients.

One couple, in their 60s, were living in their basement after they say Hrehirchuk began work on their home but failed to pay the tradespeople and left the job unfinished.

Shortly after criminal charges were laid, Service Alberta issued a director’s order against Hrehirchuk and his company. The agency’s investigation found he breached the province’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA) by having clients sign prepaid contracts that were “harsh, oppressive or excessively one-sided.”

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