Sophon Sek was riding high after triumphing over 680 players at the B.C. Poker Championships on Sunday, and taking home a $364,000 prize.
But his fortune took a surprise turn less than 24 hours later, when he was arrested at a Vancouver gas station as the latest suspect in the Surrey Six killings of 2007.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team Tuesday announced the 30-year-old Cloverdale resident has been charged with manslaughter and breaking and entering with intent in connection with the Oct. 17, 2007, gang-related killings of six men - two of them innocent bystanders - in a 15th-floor Surrey apartment unit.
During an appearance Tuesday in Surrey Provincial Court, Mr. Sek, the father of a young daughter, who was described by his lawyer as "a very decent fellow," was remanded in custody until Nov. 30.
And he won't be getting the poker winnings.
"The RCMP have asked us to have his money held, so he has not received payment," said Howard Blank, spokesman for the River Rock Casino Resort where the competition took place.
"The irony is the gentleman didn't come Monday to pick up the funds because he was arrested."
Roughly 800 players were involved in the competition.
On Sunday, Mr. Sek was given a voucher for the funds, but the RCMP made a request for withholding them through the B.C. Lotteries Corp, which licenses and operates gaming and casinos.
Mr. Blank said Mr. Sek was not really a known player to River Rock though he had played elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.
"The event itself was aboveboard. Obviously, there were unforseen circumstances," he said, referring to Mr. Sek's arrest.
RCMP Corporal Dale Carr, an IHIT spokesman, said he has no specific explanation for the decision to withhold Mr. Sek's winnings.
Mr. Sek's lawyer said his client is astonished at his situation.
"Mr. Sek is obviously very shocked that has been implicated in this and expects to be exonerated," Alan Ip said in an interview.
"Obviously, there's the presumption of innocence, and we're very early on. As you know, this is a case that has been going on for some time, so we're working a little behind, or a lot behind, everyone else, but we're trying to get up to speed as soon as we can."
Eight months ago, police began making arrests in the case after 27-year-old Dennis Karbovanec pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 15 years.
James Bacon, Cory Lal, Matthew Johnston and Cody Haevischer face various charges in the case, including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
In June, Michael Le was arrested in the Philippines as he arrived at an airport in Manila. He has since been returned to Canada. He faces two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder in the case.
In B.C.'s worst-ever gangland slaying, six men were gunned down in the apartment building as the result of a conflict linked to gang wars in the Lower Mainland.
Four of the men had links to the UN gang, police have said. The two innocent bystanders were 22-year-old Chris Mohan, who lived across the hall, and Ed Schellenberg, a 55-year-old fireplace repairman from Abbotsford who was servicing units in the complex.
The killings were linked to subsequent outbreaks of gang violence that left a number of victims dead.
Cpl. Carr said further charges are possible in the case, which remains the focus of an ongoing investigation.
He said Mr. Sek is known to police, but did not elaborate.
Court records show Mr. Sek was charged in July, 2008, with two weapons offences - possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, and a count of carrying a concealed weapon or prohibited device. The matters have not yet been resolved.
"Charges are simply charges," Mr. Ip said. "They're merely allegations, and so is this. They are serious allegations, obviously."
He said he is skeptical about the suggestion that Mr. Sek is known to police. "What does that really mean? Heck, I am probably known to the police."
He said Mr. Sek was not a member of a gang.
Steve Brown, the brother-in-law of Mr. Schellenberg, said the arrest is a tribute to the diligence of the police in the case.
"They have done an incredible job," he said. "We're very grateful for the police work."
Eileen Mohan, Mr. Mohan's mother, said she is happy to see law-enforcement is continuing its efforts to bring to account those suspected in the killings.