Pubdate: Fri, 05 Apr 2013
Source: Sun Times, The (Owen Sound, CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 Owen Sound Sun Times
Author: Scott Dunn


A former feed mill in Williamsford ranks among the biggest forfeitures
of criminal proceeds locally

Before the former Williamsford Feed Mill became a bookstore and cafe
under new owners, it made news when police discovered it housed a
secret marijuana grow-op in 2005.

Less known were the Crown's moves to seize the old mill as
offence-related property.

While people dined on the main floor of the 143-year-old mill,
upstairs a sophisticated hydroponic marijuana grow-op was powered by
the mill's own Victorian-era twin turbines, which produce power from
the North Saugeen River.

The former owner of the mill pleaded guilty in 2005 to production of
marijuana and was sentenced to one year in jail. An accomplice
received a six-month conditional sentence.

Police seized growing equipment valued at about $40,000 and cash,
which included Swiss francs and euros, then invited the media to have
a look at the seized goods for themselves. The Crown sought to have
the old mill forfeited as offence-related property.

It's probably the highest profile local example of a crime that led to
a forfeiture in recent years.

A total of $41.3 million in proceeds of crime and offence related
property was forfeited during 2011- 2012 across Canada.

New owners bought the former mill in 2006, spent $400,000 in
renovations which included repair of its leaky roof, removal of old
drywall and insulation. In 2010 they opened Great Books and Cafe.

The forfeiture was challenged in a process followed by defence lawyer
Brian Barrie, who showed that only the upper floor of the mill was
used in pot production. A settlement was negotiated in which only a
portion of the sale proceeds relating to the second floor was
forfeited to the Crown as part of the Ontario Court of justice's
sentencing order.

"That's the biggest one I remember," Barrie said of property seizures
he's been involved in.

Barrie also recalled one of the smallest. A client charged for running
a small grow-op in a falling down garage learned the Crown was
seeking forfeiture of the garage - and the house with it. Eventually
the Crown lost interest in pursuing the house or garage, Barrie said.
"With such a small number of plants, one would wonder even why they
would treat it like a big grow-op," he said.

Sometimes the Crown doesn't bother with going after properties where
police have busted drug operations because they're hardly worth anything.

Properties that are heavily mortgaged are of little value if seized.
"Generally with these grow ops, people put down 5%," said lawyer
Darren Sederoff, who defended a "gardener" who pleaded guilty in March
to production of marijuana and theft of about $100,000 worth of

The Crown didn't seek forfeiture of the farm property used in that
$1.3-million grow-op, likely because it may have been heavily
mortgaged, Sederoff said. "That's what I've seen."

The Crown declined to comment on the case.

A civil court process also allows the Ontario Attorney General to
seize property and cash deemed by the court to have been used in a
crime or are the proceeds of crime. The money is shared with crime
victims and distributed in grants to organizations such as police to
fight crime.

For example, a few years ago Owen Sound Police Services received
$44,000 for video transmitters and receivers. Grey County OPP got
almost $90,000 to create a "soft interview room" at the Chatsworth and
Meaford detachments.

The funds were obtained through the province's Civil Remedies

Owen Sound police received another $66,000 from a proceeds of crime
grant that paid for the police safety village to teach children about
traffic and bus safety and make them aware of hazards. Last year the
police received $43,000 for a program addressing impaired driving.
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