Court documents show signs of possible financial difficulty for cafe owners charged in alleged staged hate crime

Court documents show a Winnipeg family that allegedly staged a hate crime at their own cafe may have faced financial challenges.

The three owners of BerMax Caffe & Bistro were each charged with one count of public mischief Wednesday.

It’s an incident that’s sparked a roller coaster of emotions within Winnipeg’s Jewish community

“I, like many other people, felt disappointed, angry, betrayed and worried about what this would result in in the future — an increase in anti-Semitism, an increase in stereotyping,” said Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada executive director Belle Jarniewski.

Investigators allege a robbery the night before Passover was staged and that anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism were falsely reported as being committed by outside suspects.

Alexander Berent, 56, Oxana Berent, 48, and Maxim Berent, 29, have each been charged with one count of public mischief.

Speaking with CTV News Wednesday night, Alexander Berent denied any wrongdoing on the part of his family and had this to say.

“It’s a good cafe. Nice. Perfect. They broke it. I don’t know who broke it,” he said.

Police said the motive is not known.

Recently filed court documents show the family may have faced financial challenges.

The Royal Bank of Canada filed a lawsuit on Apr. 23 against Maxim Berent for $43,628 on a credit card. No defence has yet been filed.

In Aug. 2018, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ordered Alexander and Oxana to pay the Business Development Bank of Canada $112,358 for an outstanding loan taken out for another business called BerMax Design.

CTV News attempted to reach the family Thursday for comment on these matters but our requests went unanswered.

Tatiana Craword owns the building where the cafe has been located for the past five years in space leased out by the Berents.

Crawford’s not sure what the future holds for BerMax but acknowledged the difficulty faced by new businesses.

“I don’t really know what they were going through,” said Crawford. “I can tell you that we, as landlords, were very understanding.”

“We know how hard it is to start a business so if she missed a month here, a month there, in her rent, we were understanding.”