A high-profile prosecution centring on a $10-million Markham mansion allegedly being used as a high-end illegal casino is in disarray amid allegations that police officers stole valuables and planted evidence.
Last year, York Regional Police launched an investigation named “Project Endgame,” which unearthed a series of underground casinos. The busts were announced at the end of last summer with a glossy police video featuring aerial surveillance footage of a lavish mansion in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto, and of officers raiding the home and taking away baccarat tables.
York police said they arrested 32 people and seized 11 firearms, almost $1-million in cash and the mansion itself. Among those charged was the homeowner, Wei Wei, 53. His wife and adult daughter were also charged with running a gaming/betting house.
There was no publicity this spring, however, when the Crown dropped charges against the Wei family, including allegations that Mr. Wei had illegally kept guns. Meanwhile, Mr. Wei agreed to relinquish his claim to any of the seized assets – including $960,000 in cash and his half of the value of the seized multimillion-dollar house (though his wife will keep her share).
This resolution followed months of complaints by Mr. Wei and his lawyer, Danielle Robitaille, about valuables that allegedly went missing during the raid.
“In the course of our work defending Mr. Wei we uncovered troubling evidence pointing to evidence of serious police misconduct,” reads a letter dated May 15 that Ms. Robitaille sent to Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
Her letter alleges that a close review of police-disclosed photos and videos taken over a two-day period after the raid reveals things going missing from where they were and things appearing where they were not. “Members of the YRP (York Regional Police) appear to have stolen two watches belonging to Mr. Wei valued at approximately $450,000,” she writes. She also alleges that police “have planted evidence, namely a gun holster, in a room associated with Mr. Wei while executing the same warrant.”
Police and prosecutors are not speaking to these allegations, which have not been proven in court. They have been the subject of a police internal-affairs investigation since March, when the force was independently apprised of the issues by prosecutors.
But Ms. Robitaille told the OIPRD she wants the outside agency to investigate. “Given the way YRP made a significant public spectacle of the results of their investigation into Project Endgame … we have grave concerns that the internal investigation into this troubling misconduct will fail to adequately probe the case.”
In an e-mailed statement, York Regional Police said the force is conducting a thorough investigation into the complaint filed by Mr. Wei’s lawyer.
The force’s statement also emphasized that the overall case has not collapsed. Multiple accused are still before the courts awaiting resolution to their charges or trial. This includes Wei Dong, who continues to face firearms and gaming/betting house charges. In an interview, his lawyer Calvin Barry said he will be challenging the charges based on the complaints from Wei Wei.
A spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney-General said four other people arrested during the bust remain before the courts.
The York Regional Police statement adds that when charges were dropped against Wei Wei, he entered into a court-enforced agreement to keep the peace and stay away from casinos, in addition to surrendering his share of the Markham property. “Overall, we are content with this outcome,” York Constable Laura Nicolle said in e-mailed statement.
The home is now for sale with a price of $9,980,000. A real estate listing describes it as a 30,000-square-foot property with chandeliers, an elevator, three dining rooms, an indoor swimming pool and a spa.
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