A police case investigating an alleged illegal casino in Toronto has fallen apart after the arresting officers were accused of planting evidence and stealing jewellery from the property.
Canadian officials have been looking to clamp down on illegal gambling in recent months as part of Project Endgame, and prosecutors in Ontario revealed they had seized more than $10 million in cash, weapons and other assets. They also reportedly found a stuffed polar bear, according to the Toronto Star newspaper.
Another investigation took cops to a mansion in York, Toronto, owned by Wei Wei, who authorities believed was running an illegal casino from the basement of the property.
As many as 92 tactical officers stormed the premises and found punters sat at Mahjong tables and slot machines, as well as a kitchen serving snacks including banned delicacies such as shark fin. Upstairs, a bed and breakfast was being operated, as was a cash bar and even a banking area.
They ended up arresting some 29 people as part of a wider tightening of the net, with the 52-year-old accused of nine different offences including operating an unlicensed gambling establishment, selling alcohol without a permit and owning illegal firearms, which included an AR-15 rifle.
At the time of the arrests back in October 2020, the deputy chief of police in York, Brian Bigras, said:
“This is organized crime truly exploiting and demonstrating their money, their positions and opulence thinking somehow that they are above the law.”
However, the case against the homeowner was canned after officers were said to have stolen two designer watches worth more than $450,000 and planted evidence used to secure Wei’s arrest.
“Upon discovering that the watches were missing in disclosure and from exhibit logs, we requested that Mr Wei’s watches be returned to him,” wrote Danielle Robitaille, Wei’s attorney, in a letter to police chiefs.
“YRP [York Regional Police] have advised that they conducted an extensive search of their evidence locker and do not have the watches, and that they cannot account for their disappearance during the search.”
Wei’s legal team had reviewed photos and video footage from the raid, and it was revealed that ‘tampering’ from the officers conducting the arrests was evident – including the disappearance of two watches, which were seen in the video footage initially collected by the police before not being present in subsequent exit tapes.
A further revelation saw cops accused of planting a gun holster in Wei’s bedroom to link him to the eleven-strong armoury of weapons found in his property.
A complaint of ‘serious misconduct and abuse of authority’ was filed against the York regional police force, and the charges were subsequently dropped against Wei as part of a peace bond, which prevents him from operating a casino or any other gaming venue in the area.
Others embroiled in the case, including Wei’s ex-wife and two children, were also exonerated, although Wei Dong – who is said to have managed the casino – will face charges of operating an illegal gambling venue and possessing dangerous weaponry.
The mansion owned by Wei is now up for sale for $9.9 million CAD, which is approximately £5.8 million.