Make sure you know who your tenants are

 

Realtor Phu Nhi (John) Trac outside Newmarket court May 4, 2009.

Grow-op king duped 54 homeowners

May 05, 2009

Peter Small

COURTS BUREAU

http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/articlePrint/628985

 

Maura and her husband thought they were renting their Aurora home to a couple who were away a lot.

But they wondered why the real estate agent representing the tenants kept putting them off when they tried to visit the home to get it appraised.

Fed up, they finally gave 24 hours notice that they were coming, regardless. When they arrived on Sept. 10, 2001, no one was home. “The house was abandoned, but there were hoses all the way from the kitchen sink to the basement,” said Maura, who asked that her last name not be used.

“The basement was a forest of greenery. We were very, very upset, to put it mildly,” she said in an interview.

The couple were but one of 54 homeowners across Greater Toronto between 2000 and 2002 to find out that their rental properties had been turned into marijuana grow-ops, costing them thousands of dollars in clean-up, repairs and deflated property values.

By the time a special multi-jurisdictional police task force had finished investigating, 27,550 pot plants – worth more than $30 million – had been seized.

The scheme was masterminded by real estate agent Phu Nhi (John) Trac, 46, of Living Realty in Markham, York Region Det. David Noseworthy testified yesterday.

“He was a micromanager of his criminal organization,” Noseworthy said at the first day of Trac’s sentencing hearing in Ontario Superior Court in Newmarket.

Trac’s sidekick was his close friend Sau San (Jennifer) Wu, a Sutton Group real estate agent, who is still wanted by police, Noseworthy said

In December, Trac pleaded guilty to producing and possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, money laundering, plus income tax and GST evasion.

He later tried to take back his guilty plea, but Justice Michael Brown rejected his motion.

Dressed in an immaculate suit, Trac sat in court yesterday beside his wife, Man Nghi (Yvonne) Le, and brother Phu Nhut (Mike) Trac.

The latter two face related charges, but those likely will be dropped at the end of Trac’s two-week sentencing hearing, prosecutor Lisa Mathews said.

The rental agreements gave the first clues to the scheme. Similar tenant names, business references and previous addresses would appear, some real, others bogus, most linked to Trac or his associates.

But it was the wiretaps that showed Trac involved in every aspect of the massive scheme, Noseworthy said.

He gave his underlings advice on how to avoid detection. He took an interest in how the plants were progressing and in the price of marijuana.

“He sought customers for his product,” Noseworthy said. “He sought franchisees for his operations.”

Trac generally targeted large homes with unfinished basements, where the pot plants would grow to full size, Noseworthy testified.

The marijuana growers would drill into the foundations, bypassing the hydro meter to steal electricity.

Police found little furniture in the houses, which were uninhabited save for a mattress on the floor, presumably used by the lone “farmer.”

The majority of victims were hard-working, middle-class homeowners.

“A lot of them felt very betrayed,” Noseworthy said.

Hydro companies would estimate the value of the electricity stolen and insist that homeowners pay before hooking them up again.

Silvano Deluca’s father fell ill and died nine months after police informed him his Mississauga house had been turned into a grow-op.

The shock may not have caused his dad’s death, but it didn’t help, Deluca said outside court.

The sentencing hearing continues today.

2 thoughts on “Make sure you know who your tenants are

  1. admin Post author

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/03/28/hunt-for-realtor-ends-in-bucharest/

    A former Richmond Hill real estate agent who fled Canada in 2006 before facing trial on numerous drug charges, is back in police custody in Canada after being spotted on the Internet advertising a daycare in Bucharest.

    The drug charges originate from an investigation that began in 2000 in response to an increase in large-scale indoor marijuana grow operations in York region. Police allege that while Sau San “Jennifer” Wu was operating as a licensed real estate agent, she procured rental properties to be used by marijuana growers.

    Through a joint investigation that included — among others — York Regional Police, Toronto Police, the OPP, the RCMP and Canada Revenue Agency, Ms. Wu was linked to more than 55 indoor marijuana grow operations spanning the GTA and police arrested her in 2002.

    Detective Dave Noseworthy said no one suspected Ms. Wu and her accomplice, who was also a real estate agent. Police allege she and her partner would seek out other agents looking to rent a property, provide a fictitious application form for a tenant and facilitate the lease agreement. Then, they would allegedly offer the house to “farmers” for marijuana grow operations and control the utility and rent payments.

    But when it came time for Ms. Wu to stand trial in February 2006, she had fled the country.

    Det. Noseworthy never gave up trying to find her and would periodically search the Internet for leads. On Nov. 19, 2010, he found a picture of Ms. Wu on an advertisement for a daycare she was operating in Bucharest.

    Det. Noseworthy was among officers who took custody of Ms. Wu from Romanian authorities in Bucharest. They arrived at Pearson International Airport on Friday.

    He said Ms. Wu, 46, has a standing in Romania similar to permanent residency and could have fought extradition, but she chose to waive this right, which sped up the process. Among the charges she is facing are possession of proceeds of crime, theft of electricity, a variety of tax evasion charges and failure to appear in court.

    Ms. Wu was scheduled to appear before the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket on Monday. Her case was put over to another day, Det. Noseworthy said.

    “Every other person who had been arrested in relation to the case had been prosecuted and served their time and she was still free,” Det. Noseworthy said. “It’s always in the back of your mind — that you want to tie this loose end up and finally put it to bed — and it’s satisfying. It’s very satisfying.”

    National Post
    adonnelly@nationalpost.com

  2. admin Post author

    http://www.topix.com/forum/ca/halton-hills-on-georgetown/T9MATQBM4IIPSSNTO

    Real estate agent jailed, fined $1M for grow-op scheme

    NEWMARKET–A Markham real estate agent who turned 54 rented homes into Canada’s largest-known illegal marijuana grow-op was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison and fined more than $1 million.
    Phu Nhi (John) Trac, 46, said only, “No, Your Honour, thank you,” when asked before sentencing if he had anything to say.
    Charges were dropped against his wife, Yvonne Le, and brother, Phu Nhut (Mike) Trac, who sat impassively with him on a bench behind the lawyers.
    If John Trac fails to pay the fines within two years, he must serve another five years, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Brown ruled.
    “This was an organized, sophisticated criminal enterprise,” the judge said. Trac’s “degree of responsibility and involvement was substantial and essential to the operation.”
    John Trac’s lead accomplice, Sutton Group real estate agent Sau San (Jennifer) Wu, fled the city and remains wanted by police, a pre-sentence hearing was told in May.
    Brown sentenced Trac to prison terms totalling 14 years with some to be served concurrently, making the actual jail time five years, on convictions for drug trafficking, money laundering, income tax evasion and electricity theft. He recently had assets worth $2.5 million returned to him by the court, said Crown attorney Lisa Mathews and continued to practise real estate until his licence was revoked recently.
    He appears to have the means to pay the fines and avoid the extra jail term, she said.
    At the same time, his debts with Revenue Canada for unpaid taxes exceed $1 million and interest penalties against him continue to mount, court was told.
    The fines are linked to tax evasion, withholding GST payments on real estate commissions and crime profit.
    Trac came to Canada at 16 in 1979 as one of the “boat people” refugees who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and ended up in a camp in Malaysia.
    He worked his way through high school and university, earning a B.Sc. in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto and becoming a top performing agent at Living Realty.
    Between 2001 and 2002, he also masterminded a pot-farming operation, renting homes from unsuspecting small landlords in affluent neighbourhoods across the GTA.
    The police task force that busted him recovered more than 27,550 plants worth more than $30 million, the biggest case of its type in the country at the time.
    Last December, Trac pleaded guilty to producing and possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, money laundering, plus income tax and GST evasion.
    He later tried to take back his guilty plea, but Justice Michael Brown rejected his motion.
    The Crown was also asking that Trac be forced to pay restitution of $257,627.26 to 11 homeowner victims, but the judge declined, saying “contentious” legal issues remain in linking Trac directly with the losses of the homeowners.
    “We’re pretty upset about that,” said homeowner Luciano De Luca of Oakville.
    The judge said other avenues remain open to the homeowners to seek compensation.
    “He was a micromanager of his criminal organization,” York Region Det. David said at the first day of Trac’s sentencing hearing earlier this year in Ontario Superior Court in Newmarket.
    The rental agreements gave the first clues to the scheme. Similar tenant names, business references and previous addresses would appear, some real, others bogus, most linked to Trac or his associates.
    But it was the wiretaps that showed Trac involved in every aspect of the massive scheme, Noseworthy said.
    He gave his underlings advice on how to avoid detection. He took an interest in how the plants were progressing and in the price of marijuan

Comments are closed.