Charges dropped in mansion bust, defense alleges cops filed evidence and stole watches
Months after police unveiled a massive bust at an alleged illegal casino in a sprawling mansion north of Toronto, charges have been dropped against a central figure in the case – his attorneys now claiming police filed evidence and stole watches worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. from his room.
Now Danielle Robitaillem, lawyer for Wei Wei, 52, has filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), asking it to investigate what happened with the York Regional Police’s Project Endgame.
Police say the Crown withdrew all charges against Wei earlier this month, and he made a peace bond – an order to keep the peace and behave well under certain conditions. – for a period of two years.
An internal York Regional Police investigation is underway, but the same police department that allegedly acted inappropriately cannot properly investigate what happened here, Robitaille said in the letter.
“We no longer have any confidence in the objectivity of the YRP’s internal investigation into this matter,” Robitaille wrote, in a letter first obtained by the Toronto Star.
“It is on this basis that we submit a formal complaint to your office to investigate this serious misconduct and abuse of power by the York Regional Police.”
WATCH | The latest on the Markham Mansion case:
York Police first released details of their investigation in September at a press conference in Markham, Ont., Outside the gates of the 20,000-square-foot. field.
Police said at the time that it was the site of a massive underground gambling operation, complete with slot machines, mahjong tables, a cash bar complete with thousands of premium liquor bottles and a banking area.
Upstairs was a series of bedrooms that appeared to function as guest rooms, and investigators also said they found a fully loaded AR-15 rifle with a 30-round magazine and a 9mm handgun.
But now the defense alleges they have uncovered evidence of theft and tampering with evidence while browsing photos and videos of the police search.
Luxury watches are disappearing
According to the letter, on July 23, York Regional Police officers searched a room in the mansion where Wei was staying. Officers took numerous photos and videos of the room, and in them two watches are visible: a Patek Phillippe which was bought in Paris, valued at around $ 300,000, and a Jaeger-LeCoultre. , which, according to the letter, was purchased in Hong Kong and is worth around $ 150,000.
Police then took exit videos and photos after concluding a search of the room on July 24 – but the watches do not appear in any of them, according to the letter.
Officers bagged several items, such as Wei’s cell phone and passport, and carefully labeled, numbered and photographed them, the letter said. Watches, Robitalle claims, were not one of them.
âNow the YRP cannot locate them,â the letter read.
âAfter discovering that the watches were missing in the disclosure and in the exhibits logs, we requested that Mr. Wei’s watches be returned to him. YRP said they conducted a thorough search of their evidence locker and did not have the watches, and that they cannot explain their disappearance when searching.
The letter also states that police claimed to have found a gun holster in Wei’s room during a secondary search on July 24. But Robitaille maintains that the holster was planted in an attempt to connect Wei to other weapons found elsewhere in the mansion.
She writes that the holster suddenly appeared in the bedroom for the first time almost 5 hours after the police began to search it.
The letter also states that the police violated Wei’s attorney’s solicitor-client privilege by taking photos of his tenure contract with his attorney.
York Police conduct internal investigation
These concerns were brought to the Newmarket Crown Attorney’s Office, which forwarded the case to York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween, Robitaille said in the letter.
âChief MacSween could have referred the investigation to another police force to ensure objectivity. He didn’t, âshe wrote.
âWe understand that the matters described above are under investigation by the York Regional Police Professional Standards Office.
“We are concerned that the YRP may not be objective in its assessment of its own conduct in this matter due to the problematic publicity of its investigation in the early stages of this matter and its ongoing media campaign against our client. . “
In an email response Monday, media officer Const. Laura Nicolle says York Police are conducting a “full investigation” into the complaint.
Nicolle says the force’s professional standards office was unable to complete its investigation before the letter was sent.
She also says that the investigation was also “somewhat delayed” by Wei and Robitaille’s “failure to cooperate with the investigators” – these are agents from the same police force who allegedly committed misconduct related to the investigation. initial investigation.
Nicolle also notes that under the conditions of Wei’s peace bond, he must behave well, not go to a “common gambling den” and not go to premises in Ontario with play equipment present unless authorized by the province.
She adds that Wei has agreed to give up his interest in the mansion at 5 Decourcy Court in Markham (which is currently for sale) as well as $ 960,000 in seized cash and play equipment.
“Overall, we are happy with this result,” she said.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General said charges against five other defendants related to the case were still in court.
In a further statement sent later Monday, York Regional Police said the whole case had not collapsed, noting the remaining charges.
“We must be careful in our response to these previous reports so as not to have an impact on these pending lawsuits,” the statement said.
“As in all cases of this nature where multiple people are indicted, plea deals are often made. We are pleased with the outcome of this plea deal, which will include the confiscation of millions of dollars in assets.”
The OIPRD declined to comment on the case when contacted by CBC News.
“The director believes that commenting on allegations of police misconduct in the media would compromise his ability to subsequently investigate those allegations fairly,” the office said in a statement.
This is the second time this year that a high-profile York Police case has been affected by allegations of misconduct.
Earlier this year, one of the largest organized crime police investigations in Ontario history collapsed after police allegedly illegally intercepted phone calls in a multi-million-dollar investigation. dollars on alleged mob activity in the Greater Toronto Area.