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Black market mansion casino case in tatters after claims police planted evidence, ignored legal rules

‘We uncovered troubling evidence pointing to instances of serious police misconduct, including conduct that, if proven, would amount to criminal offences’

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Criminal charges have been dropped against the owner of a luxurious mansion north of Toronto — where police raided an opulent private casino — after officers were accused of stealing expensive watches, planting evidence and disregarding rules against police monitoring communications with lawyers.

It looked like something out of James Bond when York Regional Police raids were announced, with images showing a full-service black market casino for wealthy gamblers inside a 53-room, 20,000-square-foot mansion with cathedral ceilings and a stuffed polar bear.

Behind stone walls and iron gates at 5 Decourcy Crt. in Markham, patrolled by guard dogs and armed security, unregulated high-stakes baccarat, mah-jong and poker were offered along with top-shelf liquor, wine and exotic foods, including braised shark fins, York Regional Police (YRP) said at the time.

The police investigation was code-named Project Endgame but the end of the project is decidedly messy.

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Police arrested several people, including Wei Wei, 52, along with his former wife and his daughter.

“In the course of our work defending Mr. Wei, we uncovered troubling evidence pointing to instances of serious police misconduct, including conduct that, if proven, would amount to criminal offences,” Danielle Robitaille, lawyer for Wei, wrote in a letter requesting an investigation of police misconduct by the province’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).

“Members of the YRP appear to have stolen two watches belonging to Mr. Wei, valued at approximately $450,000, while executing a search warrant,” her letter of complaint says.

“Members of YRP appear to have planted evidence, namely a gun holster, in a room associated with Mr. Wei while executing the same warrant; and the investigative team breached Mr. Wei’s solicitor-client privilege in their execution of a subsequent warrant.”

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York police said the service’s Professional Standards Bureau is already conducting a “thorough investigation” into the complaint, but had not yet completed it prior to Robitaille turning to the OIPRD.

“The investigation has also been delayed somewhat by Mr. Wei’s and Ms. Robitaille’s failure to cooperate with investigators,” said Const. Laura Nicolle, spokeswoman for York police.

Although criminal charges against Wei, his former wife, and his daughter have been withdrawn, Nicolle said the Project Endgame case did not “collapse,” because other people charged in the investigation are still before the courts.

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Wei earlier agreed to a peace bond to be of good behaviour and not to enter unlicensed gambling establishments for two years and gave up his interest in the mansion, $960,000 in cash and gaming equipment seized by police.

“Overall, we are content with this outcome,” Nicolle said.

Robitaille is far from content and fears police will try to cover it up.

In a series of letters to Crown prosecutors, beginning in November 2020, Wei’s lawyers noted several problems, producing photos and video taken by police during their raids and searches supporting their concerns.

In March, the local Crown Attorney alerted YRP’s Chief of Police, Jim MacSween, requesting an investigation.

Police charged nearly 30 people in relation to Project Endgame.
Police charged nearly 30 people in relation to Project Endgame. Photo by York Regional Police

Robitaille said Wei’s legal team found out last month that York police were conducting an internal probe — meaning it was being looked into by members of the same police service as those accused of the misconduct.

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“Given the way YRP made a significant public spectacle of the results of their investigation in Project Endgame, and their continued communication with media while the charges were outstanding, we have grave concerns that the internal investigation into this troubling misconduct will fail to adequately probe the case,” Robitaille wrote in her letter.

She asked the OIPRD to conduct an independent investigation.

The watches are exceptionally valuable.

One, a Patek Philippe bought in Paris, is worth about $300,000; the other, a gold-faced Jaeger-LeCoultre bought in Hong Kong, valued at about $150,000, according to Robitaille.

When police raided the mansion on July 23, 2020, police video taken at the time of entry shows the watches in Wei’s bedroom: the Patek Philippe on a bedside table and the Jaeger-LeCoultre in the table’s top drawer, according to her letter of complaint.

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After the search, as police were leaving on July 24, investigators took exit videos and photos — but the watches can no longer be seen.

Police seized, bagged and logged several items found in the bedroom, including Wei’s passport and phone, but the watches were not among them.

“Now the YRP cannot locate them,” the letter says.

“Upon discovering that the watches were missing in disclosure and from exhibit logs, we requested that Mr. Wei’s watches be returned to him. YRP have advised that they conducted an extensive search of their evidence locker and do not have the watches, and they cannot account for their disappearance during the search.”

A gun holster seems to have done the opposite of a disappearing trick. It appeared 17 hours after photos show it wasn’t there before, the letter says.

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Police allege a gun holster was found in Wei’s bedroom during a second search on July 24. The holster for a handgun was purportedly found outside a linen closet in the hall of Wei’s bedroom suite.

Photos from an earlier search do not show a holster in that spot, or anywhere else in the bedroom, according to the letter.

The holster could have been important in a prosecution.

“That holster was planted by police in an apparent attempt to connect Mr. Wei to various firearms found elsewhere at 5 Decourcy,” the letter says.

After police searched the mansion, officers executed a search warrant at the family’s home on July 30.

The evidence is tainted in our view

During the search, documents were found relating to Wei’s communications with his lawyers, including a copy of his retainer agreement with Robitaille and her law firm of Henein Hutchison LLP. The officer photographed the documents.

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Robitaille said this was an “outrageous” breach of solicitor-client privilege, which are rules protecting a client’s right to communicate privately with their lawyers. The letter says the officer took the photos to further the investigation because “she thought the ‘title’ of our retainer agreement could advance the criminal case against Mr. Wei.”

The Crown looked into the solicitor-client complaint and found “systemic failures” in the YRP training and planning of searches, the letter says.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General said charges against five people from the Endgame case are still before the courts. Brian Gray, a ministry spokesman, said it would not be appropriate to comment on the allegations while cases are still proceeding.

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Wei Dong, 32, still faces charges over the casino and several guns seized during police raids. Nicolle said Dong was, in fact, “the primary focus of our investigation.”

Dong’s lawyer, Calvin Barry, said his client should be cut loose as well.

“My legal team is hoping for the same result, as the evidence is basically the same for Mr. Dong,” said Barry. “The charges should be withdrawn given the alleged police misconduct. Mr. Dong has no prior record. The evidence is tainted in our view given the investigation of this project.”

Barry said all of the seized guns were found inside the mansion.

The mansion, in the community called Devil’s Elbow, was recently on the market, advertised as being “the best value in the area,” with an asking price of $9,980,000.

A spokesperson for Stephen Leach, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, declined to confirm an investigation into the complaints and said it would be inappropriate to comment on any possible ongoing investigation.

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