In a dramatic twist, charges against a man at the center of an alleged illegal casino operation have been withdrawn.
The case against Wei Wei, 52, was abandoned recently by the Crown after Wei’s lawyer, Danielle Robitaille, levied allegations of theft and misconduct against York Regional Police (YRP). The allegations were part of a complaint filed with the Office Of Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).
The establishment got the nickname of the “Covid Casino” from reportedly flouting Covid restrictions.
The complaint, filed over the weekend, claims police stole expensive Swiss watches, planted evidence, and breached Wei’s solicitor-client privilege. In it, Robitaille requests Ontario’s civilian watchdog investigate police actions during ‘Project Endgame,’ the YRP operation resulting in Wei’s arrest.
“We no longer have any confidence in the objectivity of the YRP’s internal investigation into this matter,” wrote Robitaille in a letter first obtained by The Toronto Star.
According to Robitaille, her firm first reported their concerns in late 2020 to the assistant Crown attorneys handling the case. Their report included “detailed video and photo support,” prompting the Crown’s request for an investigation into the allegations.
Little more than a month later, Robitaille discovered the probe was being conducted internally by YRP, not an external body. A revelation that led to the call for OIPRD to intervene.
“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,” she wrote.
Embracing the ‘Endgame’
On September 3, 2020, York police held a press conference in front of a swanky Markham mansion.
In a scene ripped straight from a made-for-TV movie, police released details of a massive illegal gambling sting. “Project Endgame” resulted in nearly 30 arrests, including Wei Wei, his ex-wife, and his daughter. The operation also seized more than $11.5 million in weapons, cash, and assets like the mansion on Decourcy Court.
The sprawling home allegedly housed a Bed & Breakfast on its upper floor. The illegal casino and spa operated in the basement. Currently, the home is for sale.
At the time of the announcement, YRP was pleased with the result of the bust.
“This is organized crime truly exploiting and demonstrating their money, their positions and opulence thinking somehow that they are above the law,” said Deputy Chief Brian Bigras.
“We will continue to target organized crime in York Region and use every tool at our disposal, including forensic accounting, to ensure these criminals are held accountable,” added Chief Jim MacSween.
Statements now suspect under the shadow of Robitaille’s allegations.
Stolen watches, an errant holster, a thousand words
In the complaint filed, Robitaille further detailed the severity of the allegations against YRP.
“In the course of our work defending Mr. (Wei) Wei, we uncovered troubling evidence pointing to instances of serious police misconduct, including conduct that, if proven, would amount to criminal offences,” she wrote.
One allegation against YRP concerns the theft of two watches. The first, a Patek Phillipe timepiece valued at nearly $300,000, the second a $150,000 Jaeger-LeCoultre.
According to Robitaille, police documentation shows the watches in a bedroom used by Wei when police first entered. However, the watches did not appear in exit photos and weren’t “bagged and tagged” as exhibits. And YRP is unable to locate them.
Another issue brought to OIPRD’s attention concerns a gun holster found in the same bedroom during a follow-up search.
“A close examination of police videos and photographs raise serious concerns about how a gun holster appeared for the very first time in Mr. Wei’s bedroom suite almost 17 hours after the search commenced.”
The holster, reportedly found outside a closet door, doesn’t appear in any previous photos or videos of the room.
“Multiple sets of officer notes indicate that police had secured the scene the night of July 23, 2020, and into July 24, 2020. This evidence suggests that the holster was planted in Mr. Wei’s room by police,” Robitaille wrote.
A third allegation surrounds a breach of solicitor-client privilege. During the execution of a warrant at Wei’s family home, a breach occurred when an officer photographed privileged legal documents.
“The Crown-ordered investigation into these outrageous breaches of Mr. Wei’s … right to counsel revealed systemic failures by the YRP,” wrote Robitaille. “In their training, the planning of their searches, and ultimately the searches’ execution.”
YRP response to allegations
Chief MacSween directed the professional standards bureau to investigate, said Laura Nicolle, media relations for YRP, in a statement. The bureau, however, was unable to complete the investigation before Robitaille submitted the complaint.
Nicolle also alleges a delay due to a “failure to cooperate” attributed to Robitaille and Wei. But assures the force is conducting “a thorough investigation.”
Nicolle noted many accused are still “awaiting resolution to their charges or trial” when referencing the broader case.
According to YRP, Wei has agreed to a two-year, $500,000 peace bond, says Nicolle. Ordered to keep the peace, Wei must also refrain from attending a “common gaming house” in Canada. Or, Ontario locations with gaming equipment not licensed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission. Wei also forfeited his right to the mansion on Decourcy Court and nearly $1 million in cash and equipment.
“We are content with the outcome of this plea agreement, which will include the forfeiture of millions of dollars.”
These allegations come shortly after another failed YRP investigation, Project Sindicato. One of the most extensive organized crime investigations in Ontario’s history, the Crown withdrew charges after the defence alleged YRP wiretapped calls protected by solicitor-client privilege.