Homestay company owner allegedly stole $400K for gambling addiction: B.C. court petition

Woman told her business partner in Vancouver Central Homestay she was “thankful” she’d been caught.

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The part owner of a Vancouver homestay business has filed a petition asking a B.C. court to freeze her business partner’s assets, alleging she e-transferred herself at least $400,000 over two years for gambling.

Shannon Griffith and Jasbir King were East Vancouver neighbours when they started the company together in 2006 to arrange temporary accommodations for international students and young professionals with host families, according to a petition Griffith filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

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King, who for 27 years has also worked as a paralegal for a Vancouver law firm, was primarily in charge of bookkeeping for Vancouver Central Homestay, and was responsible for paying herself and Griffith — as the two sole directors — a salary four times a year, the petition states.

Early last month, while King was on a holiday in Italy for three weeks, Griffith took over the accounts and saw the balance was lower than expected and showed a shortfall of $160,000 for expenses. Griffith then found numerous unexplained e-transfers, according to the petition.

On Nov. 1, a bank printout for the period of Jan. 3, 2021, to Oct. 31, 2023, showed a total of $313,090.01 e-transferred to King. There were 311 separate withdrawals, the smallest being $450 and the largest $4,600, shows a document filed with the court.

The next day, King admitted to Griffith she had sent herself e-transfers from the company almost daily for years, and that she “has been gambling since the COVID-19 pandemic,” Griffith said in an affidavit.

“This has come as a complete shock and surprise to me,” Griffith’s affidavit said.

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“Ms. King stated that she was thankful that I had caught her, as she has personal assets and did not want to continue gambling and have to use her own assets,” it said.

King also told her she would seek treatment and would repay the company.

None of the allegations in the petition have been proven in court.

Reached by phone, King said she hadn’t received the petition and denies its allegations. She said she would call back after reading the details but did not.

After their Nov. 2 meeting, Griffith discovered dozens of e-transfers totalling $93,551 to Gigadat Solutions, an online payment platform, and Griffith expects to find more e-transfers King made before January 2021, as well as fraudulent charges to company credit cards, the petition said.

On Nov. 6, King sent Griffith a text message saying she had made an appointment with a counsellor for Nov. 8, according to the court document. She said she had been in bed all weekend “feeling outside of my body and thinking how/why I have gotten myself here but more importantly, how much I’ve hurt and betrayed you. That part sickens me, Shannon, I know sorry doesn’t begin to cover it,” it said.

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On Nov. 10, King emailed Griffith to tell her she was going to Whistler on the weekend for a “sommelier seminar she had previously booked” but that she “did not want you in any way thinking I’m not taking what’s going on seriously,” the document said. She said “figuring a way out of this is all I think about” and that she had a second counselling session the following week.

In her affidavit, Griffith said she had “observed her living a lavish lifestyle” and assumed it was funded by her paralegal salary, “but now I believe she was using funds from VCH.”

“King disguised this fraudulent misappropriation and conversion by intentionally and fraudulently altering VCH’s accounting records, fraudulently manufacturing false invoices and concealing financial information,” the petition stated.

The orders sought include one authorizing Griffith to launch a lawsuit against King under the B.C. Business Corporations Act, including a declaration King is in breach of her fiduciary duties and that she converted VCH’s funds for her personal use through fraudulent misappropriation.

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Griffith expects also to sue for general and special damages, it said.

She also is asking the court to prohibit King from accessing company accounts, remove her as director, and prevent sale of any assets, including a $1.7 million house, the petition said.

The court documents for a freezing order state there is a real risk of the disposal of her assets because King “has engaged in widespread and complex fraud,” is experienced in law and would know how to defeat creditors, has admitted to having a gambling addiction and “there is a real risk she will continue to gamble using her assets.”

Griffith said in a statement through her lawyer that she “cannot comment on the court proceedings, but all necessary steps have been taken to ensure that business will continue to operate as normal.”

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