The lawyer representing a North York condo developer who has allegedly defrauded investors of millions of dollars has been charged and victims are being requested to contact police as soon as possible.
Meerai Cho, 63, surrendered to police on August 26 and was charged with 25 counts of fraud over $5,000, 25 of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 and 25 counts of breach of trust.
It’s alleged that Cho, while acting as a lawyer on behalf of the Centrust Group, completed purchase-and-sale agreements for pre-construction condominiums located at 5220 Yonge St.
Victims supplied the accused with deposit cheques for the units, to be held in trust by the accused, pending the completion of the project.
Once the project was cancelled, the accused failed to return the deposits.
Devereux said some of the victims contacted police at the beginning of July.
“The accused allegedly said she had to get a release from the vendor and, upon receiving that, she would return the funds,” said Devereux. “Several depositors didn’t like the pace at which this was going, especially one particular victim who had deposited $600,000. Some of the victims pursued civil remedies and, through investigation, one of the complainants found that one of the bank accounts had been closed since 2012 and another one had been depleted… Some of the victims went beyond the prescribed guidelines of making a $20,000 deposit and were asked to do more. They did that over increments that were supposed to be in two named trust accounts.”
A total of 29 complainants have so far come forward.
“During our preliminary investigation, the accused turned over some of her paperwork that reveals that there are approximately 141 victims with a value that we estimate to be about $12.4 million. “However, until the other complainants come forward, we will not be able to lay further charges.”
Cho, who has surrendered her passport to police, will make another court appearance on October 2. She had no history with Toronto Police prior to her arrest.
Investigators are appealing to victims of this alleged fraud to file a police report.
“We are also asking victims to go to their local police stations and file the basic report at first,” said Devereux. “That information will then be forwarded to the investigators who will collect the evidence. Through our investigation at this time, it looks like several of the complainants are represented by civil counsel, so that might greatly assist if they already have affidavits or documents prepared. They can bring those to the investigators when they are contacted to assist us.”
Devereux said that the Centrust Group is a separate part of this investigation.
“Our allegations are that the lawyer had a duty to keep those deposits and they were not supposed to go to Centrust,” said Devereux. “The funds were only supposed to be turned over to Centrust upon closing of the project. At this point, a shovel has not been put into the ground. There were some delays and, as of 2013, it had gone power of sale. We don’t know the dynamics of how it collapsed. That is secondary to this investigation at this point. We are going to track the funds…. If there are other parties that are benefiting from these offences, they will be identified and charges will be laid against them.”