PHILIPSBURG–Not only home-buyers, but also employees of Carbon Acquisition Group (CAG) have been financially cheated. Employees who were critical of CEO Dwain Carbon’s modus operandi and decided to resign are still waiting for their (full) salaries.
The CAG owner made employees business proposals he did not fulfil and owes one of his former assistants US $142,500.
The CAG team mainly consists of family members of Dwain Carbon: his father Felix Carbon and mother Petrolina Carbon, his brother Dwight Carbon, cousin Don Barron, uncle Peter Azille, and persons who are members of his uncle’s church in Simpson Bay and were chosen for their loyalty more than their professional contributions.
To generate more revenue, Carbon was forced to look for new team members with a proven track record in sales, accounting, ICT, communications and operations management. Several of the professionals who were added to the team quickly noticed that “things did not add up” and that “Dwain was up to no good.” They handed in their resignations within a few months after starting at CAG. The Daily Herald spoke with four former employees.
“You cannot fool me at my profession,” said one of them. “If you start messing with numbers, making things seem different than they are, I quickly notice.” The apartments at Carbon Grove Estates in Cole Bay all have the same floor space and the same layout, but the units were sold at different prices and were encumbered with disproportionate mortgages, the employees noticed. “The difference in mortgages amounted to several tens of thousands and even more than 100,000 dollars. How is that possible for apartments that are identical?”
Additional fees that were requested from clients to be transferred to the Land Registry (Kadaster), were misappropriated after being collected, the former workers said. “Clients had every right to be angry. They did not get what they paid for.”
Among the clients who lost their hard-earned dollars was a lady who was very close to the Carbon family. “She bought Unit C2 for US $150,000 and paid in full,” an employee recounted, pointing out that the woman, who made sure the unfinished condo was completed and ready to move into, needed a notarial deed to obtain a new residential power connection from GEBE. “She did not get a deed. Fed up, she went to her condo and discovered that there were people living there. It turned out that somehow Dwight Carbon, Dwain’s older brother, has the deed and continues to collect the rent.”
The modus operandi of Carbon, who left the island with his wife and children in December 2020 and continued to manage his company on St. Maarten through video calls from the United States, raised anger, frustration and many questions. Employees confronted their boss. They insisted that clients who demanded to be reimbursed would be paid. Workers started looking for answers themselves. “We found proof that the accounting department was googling with mortgages, that units had been resold to second and third parties, and that Dwain had acquired real estate in the United States.”
The CAG owner discovered that his employees had been snooping around. “The next day, I could not access the system,” said a former team member. “Computer access remained restricted.”
By then, some team members were already aware that Carbon had his then 18-year-old stepson José Nunez, son of Carbon’s wife Josefina “Arony” Nunez Carbon, trading thousands of clients’ dollars on the Forex Market. “A lot of money that they paid for condos and money received from the bank was lost in trading,” a former employee explained. “There were times the company would receive 200-300k and the next day it would be all gone. Or the bank would release 100-200k and that would also disappear the next day.”
The former operations manager would question Dwain, who told him: “I am CEO and I know what I am doing.”
The deadline for delivery of units in Carbon Grove Estates to clients was December 31, 2020. When home-buyers discovered that their unit was not finished by then, or construction had not even started yet, one client after another started taking CAG and its holding company Melbon Enterprises to court. Carbon remained in the United States, and had his father, shareholder in CAG, or other persons represent him in court. The defendant categorically lost civil proceedings.
In June 2022 there was yet another court case. Carbon decided to call someone on St. Maarten he had not seen or spoken to in 10 years, and offer the then 68-year-old a job as Communications Manager at CAG. His first task: represent the CAG owner in the Philipsburg court. The man refused, he offered to write a letter to the court requesting postponement of the case instead.
“I did not even know that Dwain was living in the States,” the man explained to The Daily Herald. “I thought that if the court allowed the case to be postponed, Dwain could represent himself.”
Carbon then insisted that the man, a former restaurant and hotel manager, would go to the CAG office in Simpson Bay to help him out in the field of “client relations”.
“I started working on my birthday, June 20,” the man recalled. “Not even 45 minutes after arriving at the office, a woman came in and went off on the employees present. She wanted an explanation as to why Dwain had stopped paying her $500 weekly, as they had agreed on. I tried to calm her down and promised to seek resolve.”
After the woman had left, a man stepped into the office. “He was furious, starting threatening us and seemed capable of anything,” the former “communications manager” said about the CAG client who stood to lose his life savings to Carbon’s Guana Bay project Saltview Residences that did not materialise. “This client would not calm down. I thought: what is going on here? But after hearing 10 to 15 more tragic stories in just a couple of days, I realized: this is so wrong!”
Following many attempts to have Carbon empathise and do right by his clients, the communications manager decided to write his resignation letter on September 27, 2022. After receiving the letter, Carbon, unbeknownst to his departing employee, made the resignation letter public by sharing it with his team and with clients. He then wrote a reply to the letter and also made this public.
The email, which Early Charlemagne received second-hand, alleged that the communications manager had never lived up to his nickname “Mr. Fix-It”. “There is not a single gesture or solution that did not come from my person, with you simply carrying out the instruction, which is what you was hired for,” Carbon wrote, alleging that Charlemagne, who had agreed to a monthly salary of $1,500, made “extortionary requests of compensation in the tune of multiple six figures” to himself, and his efforts “could only be construed as being malicious.”
However, Carbon had started the letter of stating that the resignation was accepted and that he would make the requisite arrangements to pay all balances [$1,566.54 – Ed.] in a timely frame – which Carbon failed to do, still owing Charlemagne part of his meagre salary.
Charlemagne had resigned, stating: “I honestly wanted to believe in you and found your real estate development initiative quite ingenious, but the more I understand it, the more I see risks being taking with people’s money and with little or no actual financial input from you.”
After three months with CAG, Charlemagne wrote, “My sense of discernment makes me sense possible deceit and callous lack of concern and care or emotion for your actions and the distress caused to persons who invested their life-long savings in your scheme. It has some characteristics of a Ponzi scheme, in that you take risks with people’s money and not your own.”
Charlemagne stated emphatically: “I refuse to be part of that practice.”
He concluded that “the many empty promises of refunds to clients and contractors alike just goes unending.” The worst of it all, he told Carbon, “is that you don’t do any self-reflection in all this, but just blame those owed for taking legal actions against you as a last recourse and not cooperating with you.”
In response to Carbon’s far-fetched allegations against him, Charlemagne wrote in a second and last letter: “You are the one who has now established a public platform in your desperation by sending screenshots of your response to my resignation letter to disgruntled clients who you wrongly assume that I have shared my letter of resignation with. This shows traits of self-centred, egocentric, callous nature and lack of care for the people that are hurting from your modus operandi and indifference and that my sincere appeal to you to change your ways only bruised your arrogance, your ego and even areas that has the semblance of narcissistic tendencies.”
Charlemagne refused to respond to any more correspondence. On Tuesday, during an interview with The Daily Herald, he expressed hope that the government of St. Maarten would come to the aid of duped clients. “These people are not investors,” he said. “Their only purpose was to buy a place called home. That is not intended as a risk investment. That is intended as recluse for peace of mind.”
Bron: Daily Herald