Toronto police arrest lawyer accused of not returning condo deposits
Published Sunday, August 24, 2014 5:54PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 26, 2014 6:27PM EDT
A lawyer who allegedly scammed condo buyers out of millions of dollars in deposits for a condo building has been arrested.
Police allege Meerai Cho completed sale agreements before construction began on the building planned for the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area while acting on behalf of Centrust Development Group. She was released from police custody Tuesday.
Cho has been charged with 25 counts of fraud over $5,000, 25 counts of possession of property obtained by crime and 25 counts of breach of trust.
Police expect more charges to be laid as more victims come forward. They said only 25 complainants have come forward, but investigators have identified 141 possible complainants worth $12.4 million.
Buyers said Centrust Development Group was selling residential and commercial properties in the building, and took their down payments with the expectation they would pay the balance upon construction of the building at 5220 Yonge St.
When the project was cancelled in January, buyers said they were notified that the developer would be returning their money.
However, months later, buyers said they still haven't received their deposits.
The group of investors who met in Richmond Green Park on Sunday afternoon, said the developer has disappeared, and the company's real estate lawyer has declared bankruptcy.
One investor, Nancy Zhao, said she lost $50,000. She tried to contact the company at their sales centre and found that it had been converted into a car dealership.
Another woman named Mary told CTV Toronto her mother worked for more than 30 years to save money for the down payment.
Investor Thomas Yudong Ma said he'd put down $40,000, but some commercial down payments were as high as $600,000, the group said.
The Tarion Warranty Corporation was established in Ontario to refund buyers' money if a condo deal falls through, but the company only refunds up to $20,000, and only for personal properties. Police said many of the complainants paid deposits greater than $20,000. One person had a deposit of around $700,000.
With files from CTV Toronto's Heather Wright