'Condo' buyers duped into a lot of woe, detectives say
Instead of a place to rent out, they got title to either a parking space or a kiosk
January 18, 2008
No down payment, security deposit, paperwork or monthly mortgage payments - we'll take care of all that - and in a year or two, we'll help you flip that nice condominium and you'll walk away with a fat profit. Sign here.
So they did sign, in all, 17 times, so confident in the sales pitch they didn't even bother to inspect the goods. Instead, they were steered toward Multiple Listing Service ads boasting of fireplaces, hardwood floors and ceramic tile.
But as TD Canada Trust learned, when the alleged scam eventually unravelled to the tune of close to $4-million in losses, the unwitting absentee owners of those condos were in fact buying either a parking space in a Toronto Chinatown high-rise or a small kiosk in a commercial plaza in suburban Markham, complete with land-registry titles.
Seven people now face a total of 135 fraud-related charges, it was announced yesterday.
"It was all choreographed," said Detective Craig Ellis of the fraud squad.
"The [buyers] were recruited, told there was an investment plan and this is what they had to do."
Phantom real estate was only part of it, police say.
With the phony mortgages secured, allegedly with inside help at the bank and aid from a real estate agent and a real-estate lawyer accused of being a conduit for the money, those customers' credentials were then used to obtain personal and business credit lines that were maxed out before sinking in a sea of red ink.
The customers knew nothing of the credit lines, any more than they ever visited the condominiums they had supposedly bought. As dupes they were effectively invisible. And - perhaps strangest of all - none appears to have thought anything amiss until authorities came knocking.
The scheme ran from 1998 to 2000 and hinged on two rented properties owned by brothers Patrick and Kam Cheun Chan, aged 61 and 54, respectively and now charged with fraud, Det. Ellis said. One was a high-rise on Spadina Avenue north of Queen Street West; the other a Markham plaza on Ferrier Street comprised of small retail outlets.
In both instances, the buyers were told they were buying condominiums, rented out to respectable tenants and ranging in price from $150,000 to twice that amount.
Police allege that the Chan brothers dissuaded anybody anxious to take a close look, Det. Ellis said.
"They'd point to the building and say: 'There it is on the 23rd floor; we can't go and see it because the people are in there and they're a little antsy, they don't like people around.'