Caroline Barghout · CBC News
A convicted drug dealer and former gang member is willing to put up $300,000 surety in order to help secure a release on bail for fashion mogul Peter Nygard.
The affidavit filed by the former Hells Angels associate is just one of a number of documents Nygard and his legal team have filed in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench in an effort to convince a judge he should be released on bail.
The 79-year-old fashion designer has been in custody since Dec. 14 after his arrest at a Winnipeg home. Nygard is at Headingley Correctional Centre, awaiting extradition to the U.S. on a nine-count indictment for allegations of sex trafficking, sexual assault and racketeering conspiracy.
Steve Mager says he met Nygard playing poker and started working for him in 2017 doing construction, eventually becoming Nygard’s director of construction, according to court documents.
In an affidavit, Mager says Nygard gave him a second chance knowing he had been twice convicted of cocaine trafficking. Now, the 43-year-old says he’s willing to pay up $300,000 surety for Nygard’s release.
“I was with Peter Nygard almost every day since February 2020 until his arrest, both in Winnipeg and at Falcon Lake. Unfortunately, I watched his health decline during that time. He grew weaker, his energy level declined and he aged considerably,” said Mager in the affidavit.
Mager said during those 10 months Nygard never said anything about wanting to leave Manitoba.
“In my opinion, he is not at all a flight risk,” Mager said.
In 2001, Mager was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. Parole Board of Canada documents say he had $21,000 worth of cocaine and $5,000 cash when he was arrested and subsequently spent time in prison.
In 2009, he was one of dozens arrested in Project Divide — a year-long investigation by the Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force that targeted high-level members of the Hells Angels and Zig Zag Crew. As a result, Mager was sentenced to five years in prison for cocaine trafficking.
“It’s shameful that you would necessarily single out Steve Mager, who’s paid his debt to society, who’s put his former life behind him,” said Nygard’s lawyer, Jay Prober, in a phone interview with CBC News.
Prober said Mager’s last conviction was 10 years ago, and that information was disclosed in his affidavit.
“We wouldn’t have offered Steve Mager as a surety if we had any concerns,” said Prober. “He has property.”
Mager’s affidavit says he and his wife own a home, and he owns a second rental property. The equity from both is about $300,000, which Mager says he will put up for Nygard’s release.
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Prober said Mager has no convictions for fraud or perjury and that his past criminal record is of no consequence.
Prober says he doesn’t know if Nygard will fight extradition to the U.S. and that it will depend on what’s in the disclosure documents, which he expects to receive in February.
Ex-IT director accused of deleting files offers $900K surety
Former Nygard executive Greg Fenske says he will put up $900,000 as surety for his old boss’s release.
In his affidavit, 65-year-old Fenske says his numbered company recently purchased a $900,000 house in Winnipeg that he doesn’t have a mortgage on and would be prepared to transfer it into his own name personally if the court requires.
“I am also prepared to have Peter Nygard live there if he is released on bail. I undertake to attend there every day to supervise him,” said Fenske’s affidavit.
Fenske registered the numbered company in April, then purchased a home in Royalwood on Sept. 14, 2020, for $989,900.
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In an affidavit filed in the Nygard extradition case, RCMP Sgt. Stepane Nicolas said the Mounties and Winnipeg police had the home under surveillance for five days before they arrested Nygard at the home.
Fenske says he began working for Nygard International in 2008, then in 2015 he started working directly with Nygard on financial information systems design and implementation.
In his affidavit, Fenske says he’s gotten to know Nygard over the years and doesn’t believe he’s a flight risk.
Character witnesses deny woman held against her will
In his affidavit, Sgt. Nicolas said in late September 2020, the FBI seized the cell phone of an American woman, known as Female-1, who was “required to reside” with Nygard at Falcon Lake. The woman worked as his assistant and had been in Canada since February.
“In the days leading up to Female-1’s departure, she communicated with Victim-6, telling her, in sum and substance, that Nygard had ‘been a monster’ and that she was leaving,” wrote Sgt. Nicolas.
He said communication on the woman’s phone said she “was required to reside with Nygard” and that she wasn’t permitted to leave without his permission.
However, a number of character witnesses wrote affidavits refuting that, including Steve Mager, who said he met the woman a year ago while they both worked for Nygard.
“I spent a lot of time with her this past summer at Falcon Lake.… She was always free to come and go as she pleased. She had the keys to the cabin, the house and the vehicles. She also spoke to her family every day,” wrote Mager in his affidavit.
Poker players, ex-employees among character witnesses
Nygard’s former driver Jose Mari Vasquez also wrote an affidavit in support of his former boss.
“I drove Mr. Nygard to and from the airport, to and from meetings, between factories and to and from social occasions such as the fashion shows. At no time did I ever see or hear of any untoward conduct towards women. Nor did I receive any complaints about his behaviour,” said Vasquez in his affidavit.
He says Nygard treated him so well that he decided to volunteer his time to help the 79-year-old in Falcon Lake after he lost his job.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Peter Nygard and the company. I will always treasure the times of good conversation and authentic friendships,” said Vasquez.
Sgt. Nicolas said police spotted vehicles registered to Mager and Vasquez coming and going from the Royalwood home that was under surveillance.
Robert Mackenzie, 42, says he’s an investigator with Manitoba Lotteries Commission, where he says he’s worked for the past 20 years.
In an affidavit, he says he met Nygard in the spring of 2020 at his cottage in Falcon Lake. Mackenzie says he was there to provide help concerning technical issues with the internet and data services.
“While I was there on my initial visit (a weekend) I was able to resolve a number of technical issues. When we discussed payment, I told Peter that my being able to stay at Falcon Lake was payment enough,” said Mackenzie in an affidavit.
Mackenzie says he spent most of the spring and summer with Nygard at Falcon Lake including a two-week stay.
“The whole time I was there the atmosphere was friendly and sociable, all the guests were treated well and respectfully,” said the affidavit.