TORONTO —; After being burned with bad cheques, Ilya Spekhov has vowed never to accept uncertified cheques from renters of his downtown Toronto home.
“I thought I knew the way to verify whether the cheque is legitimate or not,” he said, after receiving two cheques totalling $3,000 in January from a young woman who wanted to rent the space in order to shoot an independent film.
He deposited the cheques with no apparent issues but “three days later the cheques bounced,” he explained.
In fact, Spekhov inquired with his bank which confirmed that the account didn’t even exist. By then, the woman had already left his place.
Spekhov soon discovered his problem was just the tip of a much larger iceberg in which half a dozen people have come forward to Global News alleging the same individual ripped them off.
Businessman Jose Nieves grew suspicious when he received a $1,600 cheque from a young woman who rented his apartment last month, also claiming to use the space for shooting.
“I approached her and asked her for a certified cheque. She never produced one. I asked her to leave immediately,” he said.
Both men accuse 28-year-old Whitby resident Wendy Graham, an actress and founder of the company “What the Film Media & Productions” of deceiving them.
And they aren’t the only ones.
“She has to be stopped. It’s not a right situation,” said Alexandra Douglas, who explained she was hired as an art director for an independent film that Graham was set to star in and executive produce.
However, after spending two weeks in January creating designs for the set, Douglas said she grew suspicious after not seeing a penny from Graham. She decided to leave the shoot before it began and said she would never see any of the $1,200 she claims she is owed.
Douglas’ direct boss, production designer Rachel Heacock, also left the shoot after she also said she didn’t receive any wages up front.
“It’s really being taken advantage of. It is very much about the money. I need to get paid,” said Heacock, adding Graham, too, failed to pay her $1,200.
Graham declined an on camera interview but would later send numerous emails explaining she always intended to pay and made arrangements and that “some of those payments haven’t even reached their original due date yet either based on the invoice (the alleged victims) provided.”
She continued, “I could lose my job if my name ends up in the news, a job that is the only way I can pay what I owe to anyone, which will then be on you and not me.”
However, the alleged victims point out Graham only reached out to them with a promise of payment after Global News contacted Graham for comment.
To date, the alleged victims say they have not been paid. Heacock and Douglas say they’re considering suing Graham in small claims court.
“It’s money out of my pocket but again it’s all about principle to me. It’s the right thing to do,” Douglas said.