A four-year nightmare seemingly came to a close for Dave Wiseman of Rankin Inlet when charges of insurance fraud against him were stayed this past week.
When charges are stayed, the Crown has one year from the day of the stay to reopen the case.
Wiseman, 52, moved to Rankin more than 13 years ago and proved himself to be a successful businessman after opening S&G Taxi (named after his two sons, Simon and Gregory) and later a garage in the community.
Wiseman said things went very well for the first nine years or so and he made sure his company gave back to the community at every opportunity.
He said things then took a turn for the worse on Dec. 25, 2013, when a furnace fire damaged his business.
“My son went out to the garage to pull out his snowmobile on Christmas Day and when he popped into the garage, boom, the fire was going,” said Wiseman.
“I reported everything to the authorities and to my insurance company (Aviva Insurance), and the company had a gentleman come up (an independent insurance adjustor) within a couple of days.
“After he left, I never heard anything for a couple of days and I began wondering what was going on and then, three months later, I was asked to come to Winnipeg for an interview with the insurance company, and that’s when they started making all these accusations that this was going on and that was going on.
“My business was in desperate mode by this time and it continued to go downwards because my insurance company would not stand behind me.”
Wiseman’s world spun out of control during the 18 months following the fire, with his companies spiraling towards bankruptcy and he, himself, being officially charged with one count of falsifying documents and one count of using a misleading receipt.
He was also in debt to the tune of $1.2 million he had borrowed from government lending agencies.
Wiseman said the fall from running a very successful taxi company and garage to relying on your wife’s paycheque to keep your family going is a steep one.
And, he said, it hurt deep inside when he began to realize how many people in the community were quick to believe in his guilt.
“Once the media started reporting just one side of the story, I was really being made to look bad and, to top it all off, I was battling cancer.
“It’s funny, the stories run by the national media outlet based in the North, and a certain Northern newspaper, pretty much read like, well, the guy’s got to be guilty, but, never once did they try to contact or talk to me.
“At this point I wouldn’t have talked to them anyway, but, at the same time, it would have been nice to see them try to report both sides of the story instead of just slamming one side because they think they have the right information.”
Wiseman struggled to remain quiet when it seemed everyone was turning on him, and very few in the community seemed to have any belief in his innocence.
He said he took a lot of hits, and it seemed like everyone forgot all the years of good service and community involvement from his company.
“We provided very good, reliable service with our taxi company, which, I think, is evidenced by the fact we started off with one vehicle and had about 12 when my world turned upside down.
“We worked very hard, I was proud to be a part of the community, and we gave back as much as we could to the community, including sponsoring one of the local minor hockey teams.
“Then, all this happened, and some of the media came after me, making it look like I was one of these guys who comes up here, burns everybody and takes off with as much money as he can, and that’s not me.
“I come from a town on Cape Breton Island (Glace Bay), and we stand behind everything we do, so it really hurt me how many believed my guilt and I couldn’t say anything, but, the people who really knew me also knew the truth, and that was all that mattered to me.”
Wiseman said the stories being run in the media, along with some of the postings on the Internet, really hurt him inside, especially knowing his kids had to watch him going through it.
He said the pressure building within his family unit at home during this time was tremendous.
“My wife believed in me and stood by me, and one of my eldest sons (Andrew) came up to work for me when I became sick and had to battle with cancer in the midst of all this, and he stood by me 100 per cent.
“But, still, going from being the main bread winner to having to rely on my wife for everything, our money being tight and it being such an intense situation… yes, things became tense at home.
“As hard as it was, we got through it, but it was something that should never have happened in the first place had everything been done properly from day one.
“I’m totally relieved this is behind us now, and I can go out around the community and hold my head up high.”