Family accused of organizing hate crime now lives in California

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Arrest warrants have been issued for three Winnipeg family members accused of staging a hate crime at their now closed River Heights restaurant after they moved to California ahead of their impending trial.

Alexander and Oxana Berent and their son Maxim Berent made headlines last year after claiming that their Corydon Avenue restaurant, BerMax Caffé + Bistro, had been the target of four anti-Semitic attacks. Days after the last alleged attack, police charged the Berents with public mischief, saying security videos from several locations cast doubt on their claims.

Maxim (left to right), Oxana and Alexander Berent in 2011. (Winnipeg Free Press files)

A trial scheduled for Oct. 13 was called off last week after the court heard the three defendants were in Los Angeles with no hope of returning.

“They’re not coming back to this stage in Los Angeles,” Crown Attorney Dave Mann told Associate Chief Justice Anne Krahn.

Krahn issued arrest warrants against the three defendants “in anticipation of their failure to appear at this trial.”

An affidavit filed by the family confirmed they had moved to California in January and claimed they were receiving support from a local synagogue after being ostracized in Winnipeg.

Last month, Krahn rejected a request from the Berents to try them remotely from California.

At a hearing last week, the Berents withdrew a motion to adjourn the trial.

If the three defendants returned to Winnipeg now, there would not be enough time to meet the two-week pre-trial quarantine period, which supports the conclusion that they have no intention of leaving Los Angeles immediately, Mann said.

A photo through the window of BerMax Caffé + Bistro after the latest alleged incident where Oxana Berent told police she was attacked and left unconscious by intruders who ransacked the restaurant’s interior and painted anti-Semitic graffiti in the bomb on the walls. (Files by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

A source close to the case said that justice officials were unlikely to undertake the extradition of the family.

“In order to set up an extradition hearing, there is a protocol you have to follow and it is not easy,” said the source. “Ottawa should approach the Americans for extradition and to do so on a charge of public mischief would be absolutely ridiculous. They wouldn’t waste time on that, that sort of thing is reserved for murders or serious hit and run. . ”

In the latest alleged incident at the cafe, on April 18, 2019, Oxana Berent told police she was attacked and left unconscious by intruders who ransacked the restaurant’s interior and spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti on them. walls.

At the time, police called the incident “very disturbing” and Winnipeg’s Jewish community rallied around the family. A few days later, the police arrested the owners of the cafe, alleging that they had organized the attacks.

More than 25 officers from three separate units spent more than 1,000 hours investigating the latest suspected incident, Winnipeg Police Service chief Danny Smyth told reporters at the time.

A photo through a glass of BerMax Caffé + Bistro after the latest alleged incident where Oxana Berent said she was attacked by intruders who ransacked the interior of the restaurant and painted graffiti on the walls.  (Ruth Bonneville Files / Winnipeg Free Press)

A photo through a glass of BerMax Caffé + Bistro after the latest alleged incident where Oxana Berent said she was attacked by intruders who ransacked the interior of the restaurant and painted graffiti on the walls. (Ruth Bonneville Files / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I am extremely disappointed and frankly angry that this family has used hate and racism in such a dishonest manner,” said Smyth. “In doing so, they let cynicism seep into this discussion, a cynicism that trivializes the real victims of hatred.”

Court records and interviews with sources show the family faced serious financial problems before the alleged hate crimes, including six-figure debts, lawsuits, a lien on real estate and an inability to sell their restaurant or pay. their rent.

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Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Journalist
Someone once said that a reporter was just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t have a good costume. But he’s having a good trial.
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