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Lawsuit accuses Italo Ferrari’s companies of stiffing local contractor

A group of companies with ties to the old hospital site downtown are named in a $162K civil suit for unpaid work related to demolition of former St. Veronica school

A group of companies closely linked to the old hospital site downtown are being sued by a local contractor for allegedly failing to pay the balance owing for the demolition of the former St. Veronica school in the city’s west end. 

RSG General Contracting filed a civil suit in Ontario Superior Court Jan. 23, claiming $81,370 for services and materials provided — plus the same amount in damages for breach of contract — after completing demolition work and removing sewage infrastructure last year from 309 East Balfour Street for a group of companies from southern Ontario. 

The Sault-based contractor initially entered into an agreement with the group in September 2022 to demolish the former school at a total cost of $249,000. 

The companies named in the lawsuit are Wilsondale Assets Management Inc., Wilsondale Assets Management Group Inc., Westroy Assets Management Inc., 2749978 Ontario Ltd., Berkshire Enterprises Inc. and M Plus M McKerlie Holdings Inc.

The statement of claim alleges that all of the companies are “each shell and/or operations corporations operated by the same group of individuals, one of whom is Italo Ferrari,” and that together, all the defendants named in the suit are jointly liable for damages. 

None of the claims have been contested in court and a statement of defence has not been filed. 

A Woodbridge, Ont. businessman and real estate developer, Ferrari is also the general manager and public face of Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc., the company that owns the now-infamous former General and Plummer Hospital sites on Queen Street East. The aging buildings were purchased in 2019 for a combined $1.3-million, with plans to redevelop the waterfront property into condominiums and a long-term care facility.

As first reported by SooToday, Leisure Meadows Community Living is currently locked in a court battle with the City of Sault Ste. Marie over what it calls an “illegal” property standards bylaw that forced Ferrari to board up entries and provide around-the-clock security services at the old hospital site.

During a 2022 city council meeting, Ferrari used the phrase "concentration camp" to describe what the decrepit hospital site would look like if securely fenced, prompting two members of council to leave the meeting over the remark. He would later issue an apology to the municipality, hours after being rebuked publicly by Sault Mayor Matthew Shoemaker

Leisure Meadows is not named in the lawsuit launched by RSG.

Ferrari and his associated companies had big dreams for a handful of properties locally, but hardly any of those projects have panned out. While three properties listed on the Westroy Assets Management website are currently occupied — 369 Queen Street East, 815 Great Northern Road and the Doctors Building at 955 Queen Street East — three parcels of waterfront property comprising the former General and Plummer hospital sites have remained vacant and undeveloped. 

The real estate developers also made headlines in North Bay last week, when our sister site BayToday revealed that another one of their properties — the home of Trout Creek Seniors Living in the Municipality of Powassan — has been put up for sale due to unpaid property taxes.  

Ferrari and company’s unrealized developments are more than evident in the west end, where a sign advertising the future home of ‘East Balfour Residences’ has since been removed from the premises, along with the remains of the former St. Veronica school site. 

The East Balfour Street building sustained extensive damage in a September 2022 fire that took firefighters more than five hours to control. It wasn’t the first time the derelict building had been investigated for fire-related incidents, which left city officials and residents frustrated over the lack of action from the building’s owners in the past. 

The former elementary school property is owned by a numbered company: 2749978 Ontario Ltd., which is based in Vaughan, Ont. Ferrari is listed as the vice-president of that company, which is among the defendants named in the lawsuit.

According to land registry documents, there are two mortgages registered on the former St. Veronica’s property. The first, for $1.85-million, lists the lender as Berkshire Enterprises Inc., an asset management company owned by Michael Anobile, who is also president of Leisure Meadows. The second, for $400,000, lists the lender as M Plus M McKerlie Holdings Inc. and the guarantors as Ferrari and Anobile. 

Berkshire Enterprises and M Plus M McKerlie Holdings are also among the defendants named in the lawsuit.

Neither Ferrari nor Anobile responded to interview requests made by SooToday. Paul Guindon, owner and operator of RSG General Contracting, declined to comment publicly on the matter when contacted by SooToday.

The statement of claim filed in Sault Ste. Marie on behalf of RSG also shows that a claim of lien on the former St. Veronica school was filed in mid-January — making way for the $81,370 owed to the contractor to be taken out of proceeds from a future sale of the property, if the debt continues to go unpaid.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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