Two former employees of a Saanich grocery store have filed a class-action suit over illicit images of themselves that were allegedly taken in an employee washroom and shared over the internet.
The claim alleges that images were taken by a former employee at the Red Barn Market at Mattick’s Farm, who set up a video camera in a washroom at various times between 2009 and 2014. The claim also alleges there are at least six more victims.
The washrooms were for employees but were also made available to the public upon request.
The first plaintiff in the claim, Jennifer Burke, worked at the store between 2007 and 2012, while Mallory Colter worked there between 2012 and 2014. The claim identifies the defendant as Matthew Schwabe, the son of one the owners of Red Barn. He worked at the Cordova Bay store from 2009 until sometime between 2014 and 2016.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Burke was approached by Saanich Police and shown images of herself on a Russian-based porn site (including her name in caption), that she learned she was a victim of the alleged behaviour, claims a release to media from the plaintiffs’ legal team, Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy.
“In January of 2016 we started the investigation into a voyeurism complaint regarding a grocery store employee in Saanich,” said Saanich Police Sgt. Jereme Leslie. “We had a complainant come forward stating they had found images of [herself] online. That’s how we began the investigation, and through that process we were able to identify and speak to nine potential victims.”
According to the civil claim, Burke was able to identify six additional young women on the same Russian site, five of whom were Red Barn employees.
“There could be dozens of people filmed,” Burke said in the release.
“The videos were taken in a space [people] believed was private and ought to have been private,” Colter said.
Saanich Police executed search warrants and gathered evidence which led to an arrest. However, charges against the suspect have not been sworn and Leslie is unsure when those will come in.
“Saanich Police is satisfied that we’ve identified and contacted the potential victims but the investigation is still ongoing.” Leslie said. “They can be very complicated in these types of cases, long in nature, with a lot of information to sort through.”
Colter says that in February 2016 members of the Saanich Police made her aware of images on the internet that included a picture from her Facebook page, her identity and explicit photos taken from the Red Barn washroom.
The civil suit also claims that during an early morning shift in 2013, the alleged defendant showed his genitalia to a young female but escaped any notable repercussion.
In all, the claim seeks damages to compensate for the emotional and physical harm suffered by the plaintiffs in an amount to be assessed by the court.