NEWS REPORTS > THE
LINK (CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY) 12 SEPTEMBER 2005
Ex-private eye tracks Black
Alleged con artist targets women in job scam
Monday, September 12, 2005 @07:26PM
by Tracey Lindeman-Jarvis
A stench is lingering in Gary McHugh's nostrils, and its name is Harris Black. Ever since Black allegedly conned McHugh's daughter out of $700 four years ago, McHugh's had it out for him.
McHugh plops a huge binder down on the counter at Station 11. "I've got another one, just as thick." It's all the information he's gathered on Black, dating back to 1997. A former private investigator, he's become Black's worst nightmare.
McHugh has taken on the plight of every woman claiming to have been fooled by Black, and a recent rash of complaints has brought McHugh out of semi-retirement.
Jessica, whose name has been changed to spare her family, was the first to contact McHugh after being stranded on the South Shore. When the 19-year-old Filipino immigrant found an ad calling for photographers at $15 an hour—no French, or experience required—she sent off her CV.
The man Jessica claims is Black arranged for a job interview at the Java U on Monkland. A few weeks later, he picked her up at her NDG home and took her to his Clarenceville family cottage for a test photo shoot.
She says she ate lunch and drank wine with Black, but became anxious when she realized they weren't really going to be taking any photos. She noticed his e-mail inbox open on his laptop and memorized the address. Later, she says Black asked to take nude photos of her, and have sex with her, both of which she quickly declined. At the end of the evening, he refused to take her home.
"He said, 'Here's the bus stop, take the bus to Montreal.' It was a trailer park," Jessica says. "I was crying, begging him to take me home."
After a minor struggle, he left her at a dépanneur where she says a clerk witnessed their dispute. The next morning, she ran an Internet search on Black's e-mail address and found McHugh through
Black, who goes by many aliases, first made the news in 2001 when he conned over 30 people out of their hard-earned cash, posing as a job placement agent. He's repaid 16 of those who took him to small claims court. Black also pled guilty in 1999 to sexual assault and committing an indecent act. He received 18 months' probation.
Ursula Mercado met the man she says is Black on an online-dating service last summer. A Peruvian, she was new to Montreal and Black offered to help her find a bicycle. He drove her to Clarenceville, saying the bicycle stores in Montreal were closed and he knew a place that closed late. At the cottage, Mercado says she refused Black's advances, which she claims greatly annoyed him. After she declined a drink from him, he flew into a rage.
"He tried again to kiss me, but this time he jumped on me and he threw me on the sofa-bed," Mercado says from Peru. "I started to scream and he laughed."
He herded her into the car and threw her out on a deserted stretch of road. She found help after about a mile's walk, and made it home several hours later. She found McHugh after the online-dating service site administrator sent an e-mail out to members, warning them about Black.
When Pamela, who spoke on the condition her real name not be used, went for her photography job interview at Java U last month, she sensed something was awry when he didn't want to see her portfolio. The next day, he told her she got the job. Pamela says it seemed too good to be true and told her friend Christina Xydous, a housing and employment advocate, about her experience.
"I had never heard of Harris Black before," she says, but when Xydous "started telling me about [him], I just knew." She identified the man who had interviewed her when Xydous showed her
Xydous posted a photo of Black on the board outside of the CSU Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank, warning those who applied for the jobs he posted through their service to cease all contact with him and to report it.
McHugh says he brought the same photo of Black to the Java U on Monkland, and the employees confirmed he'd been holding job interviews every day for the past three weeks. Despite all McHugh's proof, though, the police's hands are tied. He says an investigator told him last week there isn't much they can do because the suspect has not actually committed a crime.
"He's made a lot of contacts [with women] and has a bank of potential victims," McHugh says. "I'm quite disappointed because it's clear he's gotta rape or kill someone to get caught."
McHugh says he's received confirmation from several sources that Black has fled Montreal and is now in Thailand. He's done this before, McHugh says—it's standard procedure for him to leave town and return to Montreal a year or so later to pick up where he left off.
Those who think they've been in contact with Harris Black are encouraged to contact Gary McHugh through
www.harrisblackwatch.com or Christina Xydous at the CSU Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank on the Hall building