Pubdate: Sat, 24 Mar 2007
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Dana Brown And Paul Legall
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Says He's The Unwitting Dupe Of A Criminal Grow Operation In His Buildings

A Hamilton landlord has portrayed himself as the  unwitting dupe of a 
sophisticated criminal operation  after a massive marijuana grow 
operation was discovered  in his east end apartments.

On Wednesday, Hamilton police found 11,000 plants worth  about $11 
million in 48 units in three high-rise  apartment buildings owned by 
Di Cenzo Management Inc.,  one of the Steel City's biggest 
residential landlords.

It was the biggest marijuana grow operation in Hamilton  history and 
drew attention to previous criminal  activity in and around the 
complex, which involved at  least one stabbing and a shooting.

Councillor Chad Collins said the buildings have been  problem spots 
for years and suggested the landlord  should be more vigilant in 
screening tenants.

Di Cenzo vice-president Anthony Di Cenzo took issue  with Collins' 
remarks, suggesting he was pandering to  the media.

"'Di Cenzo management, by choice, started extensive  repair and 
restoration of those buildings over the  course of 2005/2006. Not at 
Councillor Collins'  suggestion, who was expressing no concerns of 
which I'm  aware of, during this period," he stated in an e-mail  to 
The Spectator yesterday.

He suggested he's been unfairly slammed when he is, in  fact, the 
victim of a criminal enterprise.

"If there's a witchhunt, it shouldn't be a witchhunt of  the 
landlord," he said in a telephone interview.

"In terms of victims, if there is a victim, it's the landlord."

He said he has fully co-operated with the police  investigation and 
will do regular checks of the  apartment units in the future to make 
sure it doesn't  happen again.

"I believe this was a sophisticated criminal operation.  Whether it's 
some type of organized crime, I don't  know. I know a lot of thought 
went into it."

He added the growers had done little to attract  attention to 
themselves while growing their crops. They  vented the fumes outside 
the building and a drug  sniffing dog wasn't able to pick up the 
scent from the  hallways.

"I have personally interviewed the building  superintendent, as well 
as some of the neighbours of  the affected units," he wrote in the 
e-mail. "None had  any hint of the possibility of a grow-op. If these 
types of operations are to be prevented, management and  police can 
only do so much. Tenants need to be  proactive in complaining about 
suspicious activities."

Di Cenzo said the units where the plants were found had  been rented 
to 48 different people. He described them  as "real people" who had 
been individually vetted by  the building management and who had 
undergone credit  checks by a firm called Trans Union of Canada.

Di Cenzo suggested there was no "commonality" in the 48  leases to 
suggest that these people were involved in a  joint criminal 
enterprise. "There was nothing that  raised a red flag," he said.

He added police may have found something in the  apartments 
themselves that led them from building to  building and unit to unit.

Sandy Shaw, senior planner for the social and research  council of 
Hamilton, said a large number of residents  in these apartments are 
new Canadians, many from South  East Asian.

She suggested they might be slow to complain about the  conditions of 
the apartments, which are relatively  affordable, or of any 
suspicious activities.

"There's this sense that new Canadians are not entirely  sure of 
their rights as tenants and they're not really  certain what the 
obligation of the landlord is." She  said the buildings had generated 
complaints in the past  about mice, pigeons and heat and water problems.

"It shouldn't take a massive drug bust for the  neighbourhood to have 
the kind of attention that's been  long overdue," Shaw said.

In his e-mail, Di Cenzo said he had taken steps to  address tenant 
concerns in the past, including  employing security guards who patrol 
the buildings with  drug sniffing dogs. He will also have to go 
through a  formal eviction process for each tenant who rented the 
marijuana units before he can lease them again.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman