In the 1990s, they were Canada's power couple in the entertainment industry and the toast of Hollywood.
Ronald Weinberg and his wife, Micheline Charest, founded the animation company Cinar, creating such children's classics as Arthur and Caillou. They won an Emmy and untold riches for their work. Ms. Charest was listed at number 19 in Hollywood Reporter's 1997 list of most powerful women, ahead of Madonna and Barbra Streisand.
Some 15 years after allegations of fraud first surfaced against the couple, Mr. Weinberg, 59, has now landed in criminal court.
He appeared Friday to face 36 fraud and forgery charges. He turned himself in to Canadian police this week after spending a few days sheltered in the resort area of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Modestly dressed in a corduroy coat and a tan tuque to match his bronzed complexion, Mr. Weinberg was taken into custody Thursday night at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport.
The U.S. native was released Friday after a brief hearing where he agreed to post $140,000 bail and to confine himself to two homes, one in the Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire, the other on Long Island in Great Neck, N.Y.
The arrest came one week after officials issued the warrant for his arrest. Crown prosecutor Matthew Ferguson agreed to the terms of Mr. Weinberg's release. Defence lawyer Christine Filteau said Mr. Weinberg intends to fight the charges.
"We are very confident we will establish his innocence in this process," Ms. Filteau said.
Three of Mr. Weinberg's former associates are also facing charges. Cinar's former chief financial officer Hasanain Panju and former financier Pasquale Matteo have already appeared in court. John Xanthoudakis, former president of Norshield Financial Group, remains at large.
Ms. Charest, who died in 2004 from complications suffered during plastic surgery, was never charged.
The first allegations against her and Mr. Weinberg surfaced in 1999, when Cinar was on top of Canadian entertainment and had $1.5-billion in market capitalization. The company was accused of falsifying the identities of scriptwriters to qualify for millions in Canadian content subsidies.
Later that year, the couple were accused of plagiarism and using company funds to pay their nanny and renovate their home. Executives were accused of funnelling $122-million of company money to an offshore account.
The Quebec Securities Commission imposed the harshest penalties in history on the couple, fining them $2-million. Close to 2,000 retail investors lost millions in the scandal.
The current criminal charges against the Mr. Weinberg date from 1997 to 2005 and name Florida and the Bahamas as key locations in their alleged fraud schemes.
Attempting to explain the drawn-out timeline, the Sûreté du Québec has said that the arrests came as a result of a 10-year investigation that was complicated and involved perusing thousands of pages of documents.Report Typo/Error