From the Windsor Star, August 20, 2005. Reproduced without permission.

FUGITIVE SPOTTED IN PEI Ex-Leamington man wanted on 16 charges related to bookkeeping, tax business

By Sharon Hill Star County Reporter LEAMINGTON - A Kingsville woman who says she was ripped off by a former Leamington businessman wants him brought back to town to face theft and forgery charges.

"I want him arrested. He should be brought to justice," said Joanne Hatch, a 49-year-old real estate agent who said she's out close to $8,000.

Hatch said she lost money to KeithFudge of Fair Tax and Bookkeeping Servies in 2003 when she gave him money to pay her 2002 taxes and invest for her. She said she learned from Revenue Canada her income tax bill had not been paid. She tried to get an explanation but Fudge left town soon after Leamington police began an investigation in November, 2003.

Hatch, who said her mother lost money too, has been following news of 45-year-old Fudge on the Internet through a Halifax website.

Fudge could not be reached through a message left on the Internet or by phone but a landlord near Charlottetown, PEI said Friday evening Fudge has been renting an apartment from him since mid-July and is in the process of getting a phone.

The location was passed on to Leamington police who have a warrant for Fudge's arrest. He is charged with nine counts of theft under $5,000, four counts of theft over $5,000, one charge of forgery, one charge of using a forged document and one charge of impersonation.

Const. Kevin O'Neil said 14 people complained they had lost a total of more than $100,000 to Fudge between 2001 and 2003.

Police won't go outside Ontario to arrest Fudge without consulting the Crown attorney's office.

If someone were charged with a murder or a violent crime, a Canada-wide warrant would be issued. But in this case, the radius in which Leamington police could arrest Fudge does not extend outside Ontario, O'Neil explained this week.

The arrest warrant is posted on CPIC (Canada Police Information Centre) that police departments across the country access.

But because the warrant was issued in Ontario, "it's up to the Crown to decide if we want to go to another province to bring him back here," O'Neil said.

A call to the Crown attorney's office in Windsor was not returned Friday afternoon.

Hatch had tried to forger her embarrassing investment decision with Fudge, who she says presented himself as professional. She said she thought he was being nice when he said he filed her income tax return on the Internet and paid for her. She signed over a cheque to pay him.

"He had that thick Newfie accent and you couldn�t help but like him."

Whe she learned of the website about Fudge this week, it renewed her interest in having him arrested.

Fudge has a web page dedicated to him on a site called GayHalifax. The site aims to have a page for every person, place or event in gay life in the city and uses a system called wiki that allows readers to add to or edit any page, said GayHalifax promoter DanielMacKay.

"It's going crazy at the moment," said MacKay of site activity in the last month as people added accusations and alleged sightings of Fudge.

Friday the page was the fourth most popular GayHalifax page, with an average of 129 hits a day in the last week.

From TheCoast, September 1, 2005. Reproduced without permission.


By Johnston Farrow

The crowd is still the same, a group in search of a drink and a good time, and welcoming any gender, race and sexual preference. People still frequent the club for weekly events such as karaoke and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. The renovations, new sign, and new ownership and staff indicate there's been change in the past year but don't tell the whole story.

ClubNrg moved down the street to its new location in the old ClubVortex venue, 2215 Gottingen, last February. ClubVortex had to close after KeithFudge, who had started working at the club a few months earlier under the pretense of buying the business from CarlMaxwell, disappeared on September 13, 2004, after he went to the bank to deposit the weekend receipts of over $20,000. ClubVortex staff saw neither the cash nor Fudge again. He went missing the same day he was due to sign the papers that would sign the club over to him. To add insult to injury, $15,000 in cheques written by Fudge to cover supplies for the following month - his first in charge of the club - bounced. It sent ClubVortex management scrambling to stay out of bankruptcy and the local GayCommunity reeling.

After a couple months of struggling to keep the club open, Maxwell decided to sell the business to ClubNrg owner PeterMoll in December 2004. The club officially changed hands in February 2005. Most of the employees of ClubVortex left to pursue other avenues. Former ClubVortex manager and current NRG manager EricMcRae remains the only employee from the old club.

"It was a big relief for me when it did sell," McRae says, "It was finally like, thank god! I'm not going to lie awake all night wondering what I have to do the next day." Meanwhile, rumours started to circulate earlier this summer that the 45-year-old Fudge, the man originally wanted for questioning in the disappearance of the money, had been seen in Prince Edward Island working for Ocean Choice International, a seafood processing company.

Within the past few months, people who have connections to the story started to post their stories on the GayHalifax ( website. One employee from Ocean Choice International who wished to remain anonymous informed TheCoast via email that Fudge had been let go from his job as of early August. Although the source did not say why he was let go, other sources say he was dismissed for misrepresenting himself on his resume. An Ocean Choice International spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny that Fudge worked for the company.

McRae says Fudge has recently been located in Summerside, PEI. "Two weeks ago I got an email from a couple people over there," he says about the call received after rumours of Fudge�s Halifax past came to light within the company. "He was the supervisor at Ocean Choice International. From what I heard, he's no longer there. They called me a month ago to get the scoop on him and I gave them the scoop."

When TheCoast reported on the missing ClubVortex money in November 2004, the only sure fact known about Fudge was that he was originally from Ontario. Posts on GayHalifax led to family members, and a report in the Windsor Star about Fudge's appearance in PEI published on August 20 confirmed Fudge lived in Ontario with a wife, three children and three grandchildren. Both the Star article and family confirmed that Ontario authorities have issued a province-wide warrant for his arrest for swindling more than $130,000 from 14 citizens in the Leamington and Kingsvilles region through a tax filing company he owned from 2001 to 2003, just before he appeared in Halifax. He is charged with nine counts of theft under $5,000, four counts of theft over $5,000, one charge of forgery, one charge of using a forged document and one charge of impersonation.

"I'd like to see him arrested," says Joanne Hatch of Leamington, Ontario, who had $7,500 stolen when she hired Fudge to file her taxes. Fudge told her he had paid the amount she owed as a gesture of goodwill before the filing deadline. He told her she could pay him when she had the money. She discovered after she paid Fudge that the government had not received the tax return money.

"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg because he's already done some serious damage here," Hatch says. "You don't have any idea how many victims there are."

Fudge also used his son Kerry's name and social insurance number to apply for credit cards that he proceeded to max out, leaving his son with severely damaged credit before disappearing. "Basically everyone that he swindled was ticked," says Fudge's son-in-law Darrell Acreman, who is married to Fudge's daughter, Crystal. "They were all hurt and they couldn't believe that he had done it. We figured it out, my wife and I, and if you take each individual and company that he was doing books for, the $130,000 is what he swindled, but you can almost double it because these people are out that money, plus they got to pay the taxes and everything else."

After the charges came to light, Fudge's devastated family moved to another town to start their lives over. They have not talked to Fudge since he appeared at his grandson's first birthday in fall 2003, telling them that he was in police protection from the Hell's Angels. "It's been rough," Acreman adds. "My children have basically disowned him."

Dave Brown, a car dealer from Kingsville, pinpoints Fudge living in a trailer at the Rainbow Lodge in Vernon Bridge, PEI, as late as the beginning of August. Brown tracked him down using information on the GayHalifax site and repossessed the brown Buick Fudge broke his lease on.

"I stopped into a small town with my car and a big guy comes out," Brown says. 'You know Keith' he asked me. I told him all about the story. They told me something about (Fudge) saying he worked with a seafood processing plant for 17 years (on his resume). He hadn't worked at a processing plant any more than I had. They were really pissed off at him down there."

Currently there are no formal charges against Fudge in Nova Scotia. Constable Greg Beach of the Halifax Regional Police says the investigation was closed at the request of the defendant (sic) (ClubVortex). That's news to former ClubVortex manager EricMcRae.

"We haven't dropped the investigation, but the police are waiting for Carl's accountant to finish the forensic audit on the books and until the accountant is done doing the forensic audit on the books, the police won't lay charges," McRae says. "As far as I know, the investigation is still open, unless Carl closed it because he would be the only one who could do that because he's the owner and as far as I know, it isn't closed."

Maxwell now lives in Kentville, away from the hectic schedule of a club owner. He was not available for an interview.

"I think he had his fill of it," McRae says. "Him and I aren't impressed with the police at all. I know where Keith is at this moment and they won't do anything."

Fudge is not in police custody in connection with the Ontario charges because a Canada-wide warrant can only be issued by the Crown attorneys in the jurisdiction the crime has been committed.

"It comes down to money, I presume," says Beach. "It costs money to get the person in question back. If it was murder, then that would be something that would get a nationwide warrant, but where theft is a non-violent crime, it's not something that would get a nationwide warrant."

Meanwhile, the Halifax GayCommunity tries to put the ClubVortex incident behind it while people in Ontario deal with the devastating effects of Fudge's actions. NRG remains one of the few places that the gay, lesbian and transgendered community has to call its home and there are plans to expand into the upstairs space with EvolutionCabaret this fall. Despite the fact that it's a different bar and he failed to keep ClubVortex going, a tough-skinned McRae plans to be with NRG for some time to come.

"I learned a good lesson very quickly," McRae says. "In the last interview I said whoever takes over isn't getting the keys to anything and that's the way it was. Peter (Moll, the new owner) didn't get any keys until the end of February because it took three months for everything to go through the lawyers. It's not that I didn't trust Peter, I've known Peter for years, but I had to prove the point to myself and to the staff too."