SAULT STE. MARIE — Two Indigenous brothers who operate a fuel supply company have launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the owners of the Gen7 brand of First Nation gas stations, alleging that a co-ordinated pattern of theft, negligence, “disgraceful misconduct” and “suspicious wire transfers” has left their business in financial tatters.
In a statement of claim filed at the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, Scott and Miles Hill — co-founders of Original Traders Energy (OTE), headquartered on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory — allege that a non-Indigenous couple who worked for their company conspired with others to build the Gen7 brand using misappropriated funds from OTE’s bank accounts.
The lawsuit claims the married couple who allegedly controls Gen7 Fuel, Glenn Page and Mandy Cox of Waterdown, Ont., stole from OTE to pay for expensive trips and other high-priced items, including chartered private jets. At one point, the lawsuit alleges, Page and Cox wired money from OTE accounts to purchase a 70-foot luxury yacht — dubbed “Cuz We Can” — that was delivered to Italy while the pair vacationed overseas.
Launched in 2019, Gen7 Fuel now operates nine gas stations in First Nation communities across Ontario, including one in Britt, south of Greater Sudbury, in partnership with local franchisees. Because their purchase of bulk fuel is tax-exempt, the Gen7 stations are able to offer cheaper prices at the pump to anyone, not just Indigenous customers.
From the outside, at least, the stations appear to be a shining example of a successful Indigenous-led business. But the Hill brothers’ lawsuit, obtained by SooToday from the courthouse in Toronto, tells a very different story.
According to their version of events, a trusted senior employee of Original Traders Energy — who is not Indigenous — abused his position to steal company funds and conspire with others to create the chain of First Nation gas stations. The lawsuit claims that although Glenn Page told the Hill brothers he was launching Gen7 on his own while still working as the CEO at Original Traders Energy, he secretly used millions of dollars worth of OTE cash and credit to not only build his private company, but fund a lavish lifestyle for him and his wife.
Along with Page and Cox, the lawsuit also targets Brian Page, Glenn’s brother, and another senior OTE employee, Kellie Hodgins.
“The defendants wrongfully interfered with the plaintiffs’ business to enrich themselves, cause harm to the plaintiffs, and to conceal their aforesaid unlawful acts,” reads the 44-page statement of claim, filed Oct. 12. “Their many unlawful acts described above were deliberate, planned, concealed and undertaken in concert as an unlawful conspiracy among all of the defendants.”
The lawsuit demands the “return and disgorgement of all monies and assets unlawfully taken or received,” and $1-million in punitive damages from each of the named defendants.
None of the allegations have been tested in court and statements of defence have yet to be filed by any of the named individuals.
When contacted by SooToday, a lawyer for Glenn Page issued the following statement:
“Glenn Page has known and worked with Miles and Scott Hill for nearly twenty years, first as an informal advisor, and then, since 2017, as their partner in Original Traders Energy LP. Glenn has worked hard, and with honesty and integrity, to build Original Traders Energy into a successful business. He’s saddened that the Hills have chosen to abruptly end their professional and personal relationship like this. The allegations in the Statement of Claim are false, and Glenn will respond to them in court.”
A lawyer representing both Mandy Cox and Kellie Hodgins, who lives in Burlington, also denied the allegations and said both women plan to respond to the lawsuit in court. (Brian Page, a resident of Winnipeg, Man., could not be reached for comment.)
Whatever the truth, the statement of claim lays out — in meticulous detail — how a once-thriving business relationship fell apart amid allegations of fraud, tampering, forged documents, fictitious employees and destroyed documents.
“The defendants have been unjustly enriched as a result of their unlawful acts described herein, to the deprivation of the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit reads. “They are liable to the plaintiffs to account, make full restitution, and for damages sufficient to compensate them for their losses and deprivations.”
Original Traders Energy, an Indigenous success story
The roots of the lawsuit can be traced back to 2016, when Miles Hill, an Indigenous businessman with experience in retail fuel, tobacco and convenience stores, began the process of creating Original Traders Energy LP (OTE LP), a business designed to import bulk fuel, blend it into fuel products and distribute those products to retail gas station customers.
Hill would tap Glenn Page, a former employee who had gained Hill’s trust over the years, to lead the company’s business operations. Miles’ brother, Scott Hill, would assume the role of vice president. In time, Page and the Hill brothers would each own a one-third interest in the company.
According to the lawsuit, Page understood that majority ownership and control would always remain with the brothers; they were providing the base of operations in the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, as well as nearly all of the credit and capital to establish and operate the company. The fundamental business model, the statement of claim says, was to be an “Indigenous-controlled business serving Indigenous gas station customers.”
The Hill brothers and Page would soon expand, constructing large fuel blending facilities at strategically located First Nations in Ontario in order to have greater fuel volumes available for sale and ready for delivery. The idea was to import bulk fuel from suppliers in the United States and transport it to the blending stations. That fuel would then be blended with the additives required to create the retail fuel products sold to Original Traders’ gas station customers.
Between 2018 and 2021, fuel blending stations were constructed in three First Nations — Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation — with a fourth one under construction in Couchiching First Nation.
According to the lawsuit, Page made arrangements with bulk fuel suppliers in Michigan and Ohio, Marathon Petroleum and Greenergy, for the purchase and export of bulk fuel by rail cars to its blending facilities. Between 2018 and 2022, Page and his brother, Brian Page, would oversee the creation of a fleet of rail cars, tanker trailers and vehicles required for its operations.
Today, OTE has an average daily fuel sales volume of 2 million litres.
Lawsuit claims non-Indigenous businessman launched Gen 7 Fuel
It was early 2019, the lawsuit alleges, when Page proposed another expansion to the Hill brothers: the construction and operation of OTE’s own retail gas stations in First Nation communities. The brothers say they were lukewarm on the idea.
“They decided that they did not want OTE LP to own businesses which directly competed with its customers, and did not agree that the OTE companies should proceed with that proposal,” the statement of claim says.
Page then proposed a different idea, the lawsuit says: he would set up his own gas station brand to partner with Indigenous fuel retailers on reserves, thus creating another customer for OTE. “[Page] also proposed using the term ‘Gen 7’ in promoting and operating his new venture with the Indigenous stakeholders, and in return for that permission those retailers would become new OTE LP customers,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Hills say they accepted the proposal on the understanding that they would have no interest or involvement, other than being the fuel supplier.
According to the lawsuit, Page proceeded to set up a separate office in Burlington where, between 2019 and 2022, he oversaw the establishment of Gen7 Fuel stations in nine Ontario First Nations, including Garden River, Henvey Inlet, Nipissing and Oneida.
“Our name is based around taking care of our people seven generations deep,” says Gen7’s website. “First Nations beliefs teach us that whatever we do on Mother Earth is going to affect things — positively or negatively — for seven generations. Gen7 Fuel strives to foster a positive influence in First Nation communities, creating sustainable businesses that will be around for seven generations to come.”
The lawsuit alleges that although Indigenous participants own a majority interest in each Gen7 gas station, Glenn Page and Mandy Cox “have complete financial and management control over all key aspects of the business.”
OTE expands footprint to United States
By late 2019, the Hill brothers say they started to notice inconsistencies in the financial reporting on OTE LP and OTE Logistics. The lawsuit alleges that between 2020 and 2022, Page led the brothers to believe the inconsistencies were due to disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the amount of work he had been responsible for.
Despite these alleged discrepancies in financial reporting, the Hill brothers say they still got on board with another proposal from Page: the creation of an OTE subsidiary based in the United States intended to facilitate its purchase of bulk fuel from across the border, saving OTE LP millions of dollars in year-to-year U.S. excise taxes in the process.
The lawsuit says Page subsequently used OTE LP funds to establish offices for OTE USA and OTE Michigan in East Lansing, Mich., hire local staff and retain lawyers and accountants to apply for fuel tax exemptions.
The lawsuit says Page informed the Hill brothers that OTE LP could apply for tax refunds in the United States, bringing in potential refunds somewhere in the ballpark of $25 million to $30 million. The plaintiffs allege that to date, none of these refunds have been received by OTE LP.
An abrupt exit
According to the lawsuit, it became apparent to the Hill brothers earlier this year that Page’s appearances at OTE LP offices were becoming less and less frequent. When questioned by Scott Hill, Page allegedly complained that he was overworked and needed to take a break in St. Lucia, an island that’s a well-known hotspot for tourists on the Caribbean Sea.
Page also told Scott Hill he planned to marry Cox in Italy that summer, and following their honeymoon he would “quickly finish the business projects he was working on, give up his Canadian citizenship, and retire in St. Lucia.”
Scott Hill had concerns around Page’s plan to abruptly retire, the lawsuit says. Hill claims he had not seen any financial statements since December 2020 and did not receive the tax refund from OTE’s operations in the United States. Hill says he was also concerned because no one else in the OTE companies was ready to take over as the chief executive officer on such short notice.
Page promised to tap his replacement at OTE and offer support during the transition — something that never materialized, the plaintiffs claim.
Alleged forgeries, private jets and a $3.6M yacht
It was during this absence from work over the summer when all of the allegations of serious misconduct by Page and his business partners began to surface. According to the lawsuit, OTE staff members also made the Hill brothers aware of complaints of Page’s alleged abusive behaviour against employees, as well as allegations of “suspicious wire transfers” of OTE funds that were made by Kellie Hodgins, OTE’s finance director, with Page’s approval.
Page subsequently met with the Hill brothers in mid-July. The lawsuit alleges that on top of the allegations of abusive behaviour and questionable money transfers, there had been “no proper financial reporting for far too long.”
When confronted, Page allegedly told the Hill brothers he intended to retire. After Scott Hill informed him that OTE’s director of operations was going to be promoted as interim chief executive officer, it’s alleged that Page immediately resigned.
When Scott Hill asked him to stay on temporarily as a consultant to assist in a transition to new leadership, Page was “non-committal and reiterated that he resigned as director and as president, effective immediately.”
After speaking with OTE’s bankers and conducting their own investigation, the Hill brothers say they made some devastating discoveries. They claim in their lawsuit that the 2021 financial statements were forged, and that millions of dollars in suspicious wire transfers from OTE’s bank accounts were being investigated — among them, a number of payments to private jet business Airsprint Inc. totalling $1.3-million.
They also alleged that Page and Cox used OTE funds to pay for a 70-foot yacht from Italian shipbuilder Azimut Benetti named “Cuz We Can” — at a price tag of US$3.6 million, with an additional $600,000 in taxes — and paid to have it delivered to Italy.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that OTE’s lines of credit were defrauded of millions of dollars and salary payments were made for fictitious employees.
Among the most scandalous allegations, the lawsuit alleges that Page used more than $15 million in OTE LP funds and credit to finance the construction and operation of the Gen7 Fuel stations, and that Page had recorded Scott Hill as a minority limited partner in the gas stations “against his wishes and without his knowledge.”
The lawsuit also claims that OTE LP funds and credit were used to establish Page’s own business interests, and that Page secretly controlled the fuel blending stations in Atikameksheng and Couchiching.
In August 2022, the plaintiffs say they received notice from the Ontario Ministry of Finance that OTE had not filed any returns or paid any provincial fuel and gas tax since 2021, in addition to not paying any of the federal tax on the fuel that was sold. According to the lawsuit, OTE’s alleged liability for taxes collected but not remitted exceeds $35 million.