Toronto police are investigating after a condo developer allegedly skipped town, leaving buyers wondering how they will get back their deposits totalling $12 million.

The fraud unit at 32 Division has confirmed that at least 16 separate complaints have been filed about Centrust Development Group.

In 2010, Centrust, the developer behind the North York Centrium development, sold pre-construction units to mostly Chinese families for two buildings at 5220 and 5254 Yonge St. north of Highway 401. The down payments ranged from $40,000 for residential units to $600,000 for commercial units.

But this summer, the buyers learned their money is missing and Centrust is nowhere to be found. The developer’s real estate lawyer Meerai Cho, who was in charge of the funds, has declared bankruptcy. Cho refused to comment on Friday.

Police say fraud charges are pending.

Condo buyer Thomas Ma, who put down $40,000, said, “This hurts me very deep.”

Another condo buyer Leo Zheng told CityNews he put a down payment of $125,000 for both a condo unit and a commercial space.

“I was an international student,” he said. “I came to Canada eight years ago. I finished my university degrees. I found a job and I emigrated. This thing makes me feel, “Oh the dream breaks.’”

Real estate lawyer Bob Aaron said even in a red-hot condo market there are things a buyer can do to protect his or her investment.

The Tarion Warranty Corporation, was established to refund a buyer’s money if a condo deal goes awry, but only up to $20,000 and only for personal properties. Centrium purchasers who placed a deposit on a condo unit should call Tarion at (877) 982-7466 to make a deposit protection claim, Tarion said.

“No. 1, you can limit your deposit to $20,000. And if the builder won’t take that there’s another option. You can ask the money be frozen in the lawyer’s trust account,” Aaron said.

Some buyers like Ma said he hopes that the people who are behind this are brought to justice.

With files from Amanda Ferguson