By: Tara Deschamps Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Aug 22 2014
When a group of retail and condo buyers purchased units in an up-and-coming Yonge and Finch building also featuring a hotel, they envisioned packing up their current homes and moving into new ones where they would raise families, grow old and make memories together.
Instead, they say they’ve been subjected to almost nine months of anguish as they fret over what happened to the condos they were expecting and the millions they collectively spent on units at 5220 Yonge St.
Toronto police confirm they are investigating a number of complaints from prospective buyers in the condo development who say they have lost money.
While police couldn’t say how many complaints they have received, Det. Const. Seng Sonemanivong of 32 division’s anti-fraud unit says, “There are numerous victims and we are getting more and more every day.”
Police are asking any other people who have lost money to come forward and help with the “active investigation” into the property.
One prospective buyer, Thomas Ma, says he and his wife have desperately been trying to contact developer Yo Sup (Joseph) Lee of Centrium at North York since January, when Lee sent buyers a letter saying plans for the building had fallen through and down payments would be returned.
They visited the lot where the building was to be constructed and found a few cinder blocks and an old city sign advertising Lee’s development proposal for a 14-storey, 150-hotel suite building and a 30-storey, 258-unit residential tower featuring some commercial space.
Ma says he hasn’t seen a penny of the $40,000 he shelled out for a retail unit in the building. The same is true for 29-year-old Leo Zheng and his wife who spent $120,000 on a commercial space and one-bedroom unit with a balcony and a view of bustling Yonge St. to raise his two children in.
“It was a gift to my wife and a Canadian dream for me because I was an international student who came here (from China), got a degree and job and married and then wanted to start a family in this condo,” Zheng says. “We were supposed to move into the building this year.”
Since finding out that building plans have fallen through, Zheng and other buyers have continued to press for answers about what happened to their money. They have been unable to reach Lee or his lawyer Meerai Cho.
Voicemail messages left by the Star seeking comment on the matter from Cho were not returned. Calls to Lee at a number listed on letters he gave residents were answered with a recording saying the telephone number was not in service.
In July, Ma says he was relieved when a response arrived from Cho saying his money would be returned, but by August he was feeling uneasy again. Another letter had arrived declaring that Cho had filed for bankruptcy and funds could not be recovered.
“Where did the money go?” asks Zheng, who says he plans to begin the hunt for a new home as soon as he gets his money back.
Ma requested to meet with Cho, but he says she refused to see him so he hired a lawyer.