HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Seize Houses, Cars In Pot-Grow Cases
Pubdate: Fri, 22 Feb 2002
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Toronto Star
Author: Torstar News Service
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


More Seizures Expected as New Law Used Aggressively

Kitchener - For the first time ever in Waterloo Region, police are trying 
to take away houses used for large-scale marijuana-growing operations.

Yesterday, police announced they had seized six houses and two cars valued 
at about $1.25 million as part of a joint RCMP-Waterloo regional police 
investigation into the proceeds of crime from pot grows.

Of the six houses, two are in Kitchener and one is in Waterloo. The rest 
are in Guelph, Mississauga and Brampton.

A 1997 Honda Prelude was also seized from a Kitchener owner.

Charges of possession over $5,000 of the proceeds of crime are expected to 
be laid against the owners of the six houses in about three weeks, said 
Insp. Kevin Harrison of the RCMP's integrated proceeds of crime unit in London.

If an owner is found guilty, the house is sold on the open market and the 
money goes to Revenue Canada coffers, Harrison said.

In addition to the loss of the house, owners could face hefty fines imposed 
by the courts, he said.

"Anytime we can inflict a bigger loss, the more impact on the 
organization," said Harrison.

"They need cash to operate," he said. "The idea is to take away as much 
from them as you can to decapitate them."

Staff Sgt. Ray Massicotte, head of the Waterloo regional police drug squad, 
said he hopes the additional penalty of possession of the proceeds of crime 
will act as a deterrent for dope farmers.

"We need to take the profit out of the crime. Proceeds of crime goes a long 
way in doing that," he said.

The six houses are owned by members of the Tran family. Ba Thuan Tran, 55, 
faces charges of growing pot at 78 Lewis Cres. in Kitchener. Tran, who was 
busted locally last June, was convicted on similar dope charges in British 
Columbia about two years ago.

A west coast judge gave him a six-month sentence of house arrest and 
allowed him to serve it in Kitchener where he had relatives.

Tran and members of his family including his son, daughter and son-in-law, 
were among 22 people busted last June as part of a six-month police sting 
dubbed Project Greenhouse. In the early-morning raids, 17 houses in 
Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph and the Toronto area were found to be stealing 
hydro to grow hundreds of marijuana plants.

Since Jan. 7, investigating the proceeds of crime has become easier for 
police with the passage of the federal Bill C-24. Harrison said before the 
changes, police would take months, up to eight in Project Greenhouse, to 
prove a marijuana grow house was "significantly modified" by the dope.

The complicated process involved estimates from insurance companies, quotes 
from banks on mortgages and opinions of hydro officials. At times, advice 
from structural engineers looking at the house growing dope needed to be 
taken into consideration, said Harrison.

The changes now mean police must only show evidence that the pot house was 
"significantly used."

In other words, proof must be shown that a house was strictly used to 
cultivate pot. Such an example would occur when police raid a house and 
find only a cot, some beer in the fridge, maybe a TV and a basement full of 
pot, he said.

Harrison said the courts may be reluctant to take away a house that has a 
family and two children living in it.

Harrison said he expects a "boom" in the number of houses seized.

Massicotte said the legislative changes will "open the door for this 
(proceeds of crime investigations) to be done in practice in the future."
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