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York Regional Police Superintendent Michael Slack speaks to the media during a press conference in front of a large mansion at 5 Decourcy Court in Markham Ont., on Sept 30 2020.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

From the outside, one of the only clues that might have suggested 5 Decourcy Court was anything more than an opulent home was the number of cars coming and going from the gated mansion. But beyond the wrought-iron gate, police revealed Wednesday, the 20,000-square-foot residence in Markham, Ont., operated for more than a year as an invite-only underground casino, complete with a full restaurant, cash bar and spa.

A police raid on the “home” in July led to the seizure of close to a dozen firearms, $1-million in cash and more than $1.5-million worth of alcohol – along with a dead polar bear, displayed proudly in the front hall.

In a news conference on the home’s cul-de-sac Wednesday, York Regional Police officers shared details of their dismantling of an elaborate gambling operation they allege had been secretly running since at least the fall of 2019.

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On July 23, close to 100 tactical officers descended on the 53-room mansion as part of Project End Game – launched in May, after investigators received information about underground casinos scattered across the city of Markham. In the basement, they discovered a “fully operational” casino, with baccarat and mahjong tables as well as slot machines. A cash bar was stocked with thousands of bottles of top-shelf alcohol which, along with a high-end wine cellar, was estimated to be worth more than $1.5-million.

On the second floor was a bed-and-breakfast-like setup, where gamblers could book rooms for the night. The front bedroom, however, was reserved for the casino’s de facto manager. In that room, on a desk next to a window that overlooked the front courtyard, police found a loaded AR-15 rifle. A 9mm glock handgun was found by the bed.

A police raid on the 'home' in July led to the seizure of close to a dozen firearms, $1-million in cash and more than $1.5-million worth of alcohol.

Courtesy of York Regional Police

Across the hallway, police found two large gun safes. One of them was empty and the other contained more than $1-million in bundled cash.

Also found on the upper floors of the mansion were “several additional VIP tables, a full service spa with employees and clientele and a massive chef’s kitchen with a full menu including contraband items such as braised sharks fin available.”

Nine more guns – including a 50-calibre Desert Eagle pistol – were found in the house, along with high-capacity prohibited magazines and several thousand rounds of ammunition. In addition, 10 high-end gaming tables and chairs, thousands of casino chips, game tiles and playing cards were also seized.

The home – which police said has been appraised at $9-million – has now been “restrained” as part of a forfeiture investigation.

The home was purchased for $4.7-million in 2015 by Wei Wei – who police allege was the owner of the operation – and his wife, Xing Yue Chen, according to property records. Police say renovations for the gambling operation began roughly two years later. A second multimillion-dollar mansion owned by the couple on Woodland Acres in nearby Vaughan was also raided as part of Project End Game, though police say that property was the family’s home.

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Wei Wei, 52, and Wei Dong, 32, who police say was the casino’s de facto manager, are each charged with more than a dozen offences, including keeping a common gaming/betting house and multiple firearms offences. Xing Yue Chen, 48, and the couple’s daughter, Chen Wei, 25, are each charged with keeping a common gaming/betting house, possession of proceeds of crime and selling liquor without a licence.

In addition to the main players, 15 people were charged with “keeping a common gaming or betting house,” and nine were charged with being found in a gaming or betting house.

The home – which police said has been appraised at $9-million – has now been 'restrained' as part of a forfeiture investigation.

Courtesy of York Regional Police

Asked about the clientele, police said the operation drew high-stakes gamblers from across the Greater Toronto Area, though predominantly from Markham.

“To get into this location and many of the locations we investigated, you have to be invited in,” Superintendent Michael Slack said. “So, often, smaller-scale illegal casinos are where those initial contacts are made. And through those contacts, the invite then happens afterwards.”

Ahead of the press conference Wednesday, a man emerged briefly from the home and, while talking on a cellphone, craned his neck at the reporters gathered out front before heading back inside. “You are under surveillance,” an automated security camera repeated over and over, whenever reporters wandered close to the gates.

Ontario casinos, which brought in $1.66-billion of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s $2.3-billion in net profits for the province last year, were forced to shut down for six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic – a void investigators say organized-crime groups were eager to fill.

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“There’s always been some level of gaming as it is an illicit income for many [organized crime] groups, but we did see an uptick in activities during COVID,” Supt. Slack said.

As a result of intelligence gathered from Project End Game, police have since conducted raids on a series of other smaller gambling operations across the region – including one in a unit above a nondescript Markham strip mall last week.

“Although this location is extravagant and is clearly where the privileged were invited to play … some of the other fortified locations where we searched were in condition where they could be condemned," Supt. Slack said. "And instead of providing high-end scotch and wine, gamblers are given methamphetamines and other drugs to keep them awake and gambling. We will continue to double down on our efforts to disrupt these operations, and curb the violence that follows.”

With a report from Rick Cash

As a result of intelligence gathered from Project End Game, police have since conducted raids on a series of other smaller gambling operations across the region.

Courtesy of York Regional Police

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