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EXCLUSIVE: Police raid former offices of condo developer in North York fraud case

Police raided on Wednesday the former offices of a North York condo developer that allegedly kept at least $12 million in down payments.

Police cleared seven filing cabinets, seizing thousands of Centrust Development Group documents, including contracts, filling two cars. They took everything, including files, CDs and even plaques on the wall.

The raid follows a CityNews story on Friday about Centrust, which sold pre-construction units in 2010 to at least 141 people for two towers at 5220 and 5254 Yonge St., south of Finch Avenue. Individual deposits ranged anywhere from $40,000 to $700,000 for residential and commercial units. The condos weren’t built and this summer, the buyers learned their money is missing and Centrust is nowhere to be found. The missing funds could total as much as $15 million.

“(The files seized) will help us assist us in finding other potential victims and or suspects or persons of interest that we may be interested in seeking down the road,” Det. Const. Chris Briggs explained to CityNews.

Meerai Cho, 63, is the real estate lawyer who was put in charge of the deposits. Investors were told she prematurely sent the money to the developer Joseph Lee of Centrust. Cho was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with 25 counts of fraud over $5,000, 25 counts of possession of stolen goods and 25 counts of breach of trust.

The condo purchasers allege the man with the money is Lee. He was listed on all the purchase agreements representing Centrust and is rumoured to be in South Korea.

Police told CityNews that they are not looking at Lee as a potential suspect but they ackowledge that could change if the paper trail leads them overseas.

“We’re glad to see that this happen, but I think Toronto police needs to do the international search,” one victim told CityNews.

Police say the condo project was doomed even before investors began hearing of bankruptcy filings. In June 2013, the land was sold in a power of sale, meaning Centrust wasn’t keeping up with the mortgage payments. Lawyer Cho has since declared bankruptcy and both police and investors fear the money has left the country.

Toronto police are hoping the files seized will tell them how the two-tower development that never happened turned into one of the biggest fraud investigations ever in North York.




On Tuesday, the Law Society of Upper Canada also suspended Cho from practicing law on a temporary basis. She declined to comment.

“There is reasonable grounds to believe that Meerai Cho has mishandled and lost approximately $14.9 million in deposit monies paid to her, in trust, by or on behalf of purchasers of condominium units in Centrium condominium project in North York by improperly paying those monies to her client,” a motion presented to the society stated.

The law society further stated that “there is significant risk” to the public if an order to suspend or restrict Cho’s licence to practise isn’t made.

Centrust moved out of the office, located at 1125 Finch Ave. W., in December 2013.

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