Kidnapping is not, as far as we know, all that common a crime in Canada. But last month, there was not one but two kidnapping attempts, and both ended in bizarre, spectacular fashion.
Strangely, both also involved popular restaurant chains specializing in family-friendly brunches. And both took place in the Montreal suburb of Laval. Plus, both had their climaxes on or near Highway 13, a major, often traffic-clogged artery serving Montreal's bedroom communities.
The victim of the first attempt was Nicholas Tsouflidis, the 44-year-old son of Cora Tsouflidis, the founder of the massively popular Chez Cora chain (aka just "Cora" in the ROC). On the evening of March 8, Tsouflidis was at his home in Mirabel, Quebec, an exurb north of Laval. At around 10 PM, someone got inside Tsouflidis' home and, he would say later, put a gun to his temple. Tsouflidis was hustled into a blue sedan and driven off.
He turned up about eight hours later near the intersection of Boulevard Dagenais and Montée Champagne, a mixed residential/commercial neighbourhood a few minutes' drive from Highway 13. He was discovered in a ditch by a pair of passers-by, bound, shaken and confused, but otherwise unharmed. He was transported to hospital and is cooperating with the provincial Sûreté du Québec police force.
What made this story more compelling than your ordinary kidnapping, uncommon as those are, is the Cora connection. The breakfast specialty chain is a classic entrepreneur-bootstraps-success story, straight out of a Paul Ryan fairy tale (minus the taking-away-poor-people's-health-care part), with humble beginnings and all. In 1987, Cora Tsouflidis, a single mom, scraped together enough cash to open her first restaurant. It served only breakfast and closed at 3 PM so she could spend her afternoons with her kids. The chain, which serves a decent if unspectacular breakfast, was a hit and it didn't take long before she started franchising. There are now 130 restaurants bearing her name and that sleepy, happy-looking sun logo across Canada.
The SQ believes the kidnapping was likely just a couple of knuckleheads looking for easy money and is not linked to organized crime. "Did their plan go wrong? Maybe they got scared," an SQ officer told the Globe and Mail. "Maybe they didn't have the guts to finish the job. There are many possible scenarios we're working through."
The force has a rough description of the two abductors and released composite photos late last month. Both are between 25 and 30 years old and have brown hair and eyes. One, who stands around 6' or 6'1 and weighs between 240 and 250 lbs, is bearded.
But the other brunch-adjacent kidnapping was more sinister, involving a victim who was less sympathetic, an ending that was more gruesome, and a breakfast chain that has a less than amazing culinary reputation.
On the morning of Tuesday, March 21, 35-year-old Kellen Seow had a short meeting with an unknown person at a Tutti Frutti franchise on Rue de Lavatère, spitting distance from Highway 13, in Laval's Ste-Dorothée district. According to the Journal de Montréal, it was short meeting, lasting just a few minutes. As he was leaving the restaurant, Seow was accosted by three (some reports say four) men in the parking lot and shoved into a car. The car then sped off towards the highway. Twenty minutes later, Seow, severely beaten and suffering from stab wounds, either jumped or was thrown out of the moving car into the middle of the highway.
His kidnappers must have stopped somewhere to rough him up because the stretch of highway where he was dumped, between Dagenais and Highway 440—coincidentally, not far from where Tsifoulidis was found—was just three kilometres from the Tutti Frutti.
A quick word about that chain: it was founded about 20 years ago and now boasts over 40 franchises in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. It's big on waffles.
Back to Seow. Witnesses told police that after leaving the moving car, he managed to get up and walk over to the shoulder before collapsing. By the time police arrived, he was already dead. The investigation is ongoing and the SQ told VICE the cause of death still has not been determined.
Seow was known to police. In 2008 he was given 24-months' probation after pleading guilty to charges of aggravated assault and uttering threats. It's believed his abduction was related to Seow's multiple drug trade-related debts.
There is no known link between the two cases. But really weird, right?
Lead photo of Cora founder Cora Tsouflidis (right) via Facebook.
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