The RCMP say they have dismantled a criminal organization involved in setting up marijuana grow operations (MGOs) throughout Ontario and elsewhere in Canada. Gerry Weir, owner of London-based Sutton Group Preferred Realty, co-operated with police throughout the two-year investigation.
Weir became suspicious about the activities of Thu Tran, a sales rep with his firm, in October 2010. Weir noticed that three of the four homes recently added to the London Police Service’s Marijuana Grow-Op Registry were sold by Tran.
“I immediately contacted the RCMP after concluding that one of my independent contractors had sold homes that were subsequently seized by police as marijuana grow operations,” says Weir. “I offered my full co-operation and agreed to provide any information useful to the investigation.”
At the RCMP’s request, Weir continued to employ Tran because the police believed her termination could interfere with the ongoing investigation. Weir complied with the RCMP’s wishes and did not end Tran’s employment until April 2012, when the RCMP informed him that the investigation was complete.
The RCMP says the investigation also involved the London Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Service, Halton Regional Police Service, Health Canada and the Real Estate Council of Ontario. It resulted in the dismantling of two illegal indoor MGOs and the seizure of thousands of marijuana plants and growing equipment.
Two commercial businesses catering to MGOs have also been raided and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of MGO equipment seized, say police. During the operation, RCMP undercover officers dealt with Tran to purchase a prospective grow house and then worked with various associated individuals who specialized in setting up the house, including the installation of lights and an illegal power by-pass system, and the supply of small marijuana plants.
This grow-operation, which would have been able to produce approximately $320,000 worth of marijuana per year, was shut down before production and the investigation exposed a criminal network able to supply anybody with an entirely functional MGO, say the RCMP.
It is alleged this same criminal group was also involved in decommissioning MGOs and putting the houses back on the market after they had been seized by police. During the course of its investigation, the RCMP learned of the involvement of two companies that specialize in providing all the necessary MGO equipment under the guise of being hydroponic garden stores.
It is alleged that these stores introduced the RCMP undercover officers to criminals supplying marijuana starter plants and clones diverted from medical marijuana farms licensed by Health Canada. The RCMP believes they have exposed a widespread conspiracy to subvert the medical marijuana access regulations to produce marijuana for trafficking purposes.
Tran and six others now face charges. Tran’s real estate licence was suspended on June 15. Weir says he is proud that he and his team were able to help the police during the investigation, but is disappointed that one of his independent contractors allegedly used the good name of Sutton Group Preferred Realty for illegal activities.
“It is extremely frustrating that the alleged wrongdoing of one person could have a negative impact on a larger group of dedicated, honest and hardworking people here at the Sutton Group Preferred,” says Weir. “But, I want to emphasize that any funds related to Thu Tran’s transactions have been donated to Neighbourhood Watch London as well as Crime Stoppers London.” Weir says:
“Living in London, we are fortunate that our police publish a grow-op registry; only a few cities in Ontario have that. It allows us to check to see who is selling the properties and what’s happening. If we didn’t have a grow-op registry, it would have been much more difficult for me to check, but still possible. A broker would have to watch the newspaper for every time police make a bust. The London Police registry shows busts for the past 24 months and lists the address of each property, the number of plants seized and the criminal charges.
It makes it easier for brokers to keep their communities safe.” Weir has been in the real estate business for more than 25 years and is a past-president of the Ontario Real Estate Association. His agency represents more than 150 real estate agents and manages six offices.
Source: This story was first published on REM Online.com