York Regional Police have laid seven criminal charges against John Aquino, the former chief executive officer of Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd., including allegations that he assaulted and threatened to kill employees and co-owners of the company.
Mr. Aquino, 48, was arrested last week after detectives investigated several complaints from current and former staff of Bondfield, which is based in Vaughan, north of Toronto.
The complainants include two Bondfield officials who allege Mr. Aquino threatened to kill them in the months before he was fired in 2018, and one employee who alleged Mr. Aquino returned to a Bondfield storage facility in April of this year and assaulted him with a weapon, police said.
Mr. Aquino was also charged with breaking and entering after allegedly entering the company’s headquarters in April “with the intent to steal documents,” Sergeant Andy Pattenden said in an e-mailed statement.
Neither Mr. Aquino nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment.
Mr. Aquino had been in charge of the now insolvent Bondfield, which was founded by his father, Ralph Aquino, during a period of explosive growth in the mid-2010s. Under John Aquino’s leadership, the company secured several high-profile government contracts, worth a total of more than $1-billion, to redevelop major Ontario landmarks and vital pieces of infrastructure. These included the renovation of Toronto’s Union Station, as well as restoring St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and Cambridge Memorial Hospital in southwestern Ontario.
But in 2018, the company imploded in what the Surety Association of Canada has called the most devastating collapse of a construction company in Canadian history. Bondfield faced more than 200 lawsuits from unpaid creditors and subcontractors, and work on the company’s projects across Ontario ground to a halt. On Oct. 15, 2018, Mr. Aquino was fired by his younger brother, Steven Aquino, who had supplanted him as CEO in the months leading up to his termination.
One of the criminal charges stems from the day John Aquino was fired. Police allege that when Steven Aquino informed John Aquino he was being terminated from his position, John Aquino “threw hot coffee” on his brother. Police allege that was assault with a weapon.
Steven Aquino declined to comment.
On June 12, 2018, police say John Aquino “threatened to kill an employee who was doing work on his home.” On Oct. 12, 2018, three days before he was fired, John Aquino “threatened to kill an adult male regarding e-mails that he didn’t like,” police allege.
After his termination, Mr. Aquino continued to appear at Bondfield offices, police allege. On April 8 of this year, John Aquino assaulted an “adult male with a weapon” at a business on Freshway Drive in Vaughan. A storage facility owned by the Aquino family, and used by Bondfield, is located on Freshway Drive.
That same month, police say Mr. Aquino entered Bondfield’s headquarters in an effort to steal documents.
In total, Mr. Aquino has been charged with four counts of uttering threats, two counts of assault with a weapon and one count of breaking and entering.
The criminal charges are just one of many legal battles in which Mr. Aquino finds himself embroiled.
Ernst & Young Inc., which was appointed as the monitor for Bondfield when it obtained bankruptcy protection in 2019, has alleged that Mr. Aquino participated in a scheme to siphon tens of millions of dollars out of Bondfield through a false invoice scheme. In September, E&Y wrapped up arguments in court, where it is trying to force Mr. Aquino and his alleged co-conspirators to pay back more than $35-million that E&Y alleges was improperly funneled out of the company to defraud creditors.
Mr. Aquino has fought back against the monitor, arguing it is trying to use an improper legal mechanism to recover the funds. The parties are awaiting a decision from Justice Bernadette Dietrich.
One witness in that case was Steven Aquino, who has been credited by the monitor with assisting in its investigations.
In a separate action, Bondfield’s insurer, Zurich Insurance Group, is suing John Aquino and the former chief administrative officer of St. Michael’s Hospital, Vas Georgiou, alleging they colluded to help Bondfield win the $300-million contract to redevelop the facility.
That lawsuit stems from a discovery by the monitor that Mr. Georgiou was given a secret bondfield.com e-mail address and a BlackBerry, which Zurich alleges the two used to share information during the bidding process. Both Mr. Georgiou and Mr. Aquino are defending the action, and Mr. Georgiou has said the BlackBerry was used for other purposes.
Zurich is asking a judge to rescind its surety bond agreement, the insurance-like product that guarantees Zurich will pay for the completion of the project in the event of default. Unity Health Toronto, the network of hospitals that includes St. Michael’s, is opposing Zurich’s suit, and arguing that Zurich is obliged to uphold its guarantee. The project is more than two years behind schedule.
Finally, the Ontario Serious Fraud Office disclosed in April that it has been investigating Bondfield since 2019. The SFO is a new initiative designed to investigate complex white-collar crime and it was launched in 2018. The SFO has not said on what issues its Bondfield probe focuses or whom.
John Aquino is scheduled to appear in court in Newmarket, Ont., concerning the threats and assault charges on January 6, 2021.
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