Centrium condos

Image: Kirkor Architects

UPDATE: Centrust Development’s office at Chesswood and Finch Avenue was raided by police on August 27th. Hundreds and hundreds of files were seized as the police continue their investigation.

Toronto Police Services have laid 75 charges in the arrest of a lawyer, Meerai Cho, who allegedly held onto the condo deposits of buyers of Centrium Condos after it was cancelled in January.

At a press conference on Tuesday August 26th, detectives said the $12.4 million in vanished condo deposits is the “largest fraud we’ve ever had to deal with in 32 Division.” Deposits ranged from $40,000 to $700,000.

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.

Located in North York, the 29-storey mixed-use project was the work of Centrust Development.

According to the Law Times, Cho was at the centre of an investigation originally spearheaded by the Law Society of Upper Canada over $15 million in buyers’ missing property deposit fees. She had “transferred the money to the developer even though the transactions hadn’t closed and the project wasn’t complete.”

Cho told the law society she hadn’t represented a builder before and made a mistake. As reported by the Law Times, her lawyer stated in response to the society’s motion to suspend her licence that she had been asked by the developer, Joseph Lee, to transfer the fees to him back in November 2010. A different developer, Group Development Corp., eventually took over the project in October 2013.

Interestingly, real estate watchers had flagged the project at 5220 Yonge Street as early as 2009. In an Urban Toronto forum post discussing the 243-unit project, one commentator noted that Centrust Development “sounds like yet another unknown ‘one project’ developer … so purchasers in this project should be aware of the risks involved.”

According to the City of Toronto’s planning documents, the project called for a 14-storey hotel tower, a 30-storey residential tower, and a 5-storey commercial base with commercial and social space. The developers filed a demolition permit for seven rental units, which were meant to be replaced when the new structure went up. These tenants were to be given relocation assistance until they could return to the new building.

Cho is scheduled to appear in court on October 2nd. We’ll be updating the story as more info becomes available.

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