Police in Canada announced Wednesday 74 charges against people arrested during the coronavirus lockdown for operating an illegal casino in Ontario. Back in July, after a month-long investigation, police discovered a mansion in the suburbs of Markham was operating as a gambling den, while all legal casinos have being shuttered due to the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus infection.
Local police arrested Wei Wei, his wife, Xiang Yue Chen, and 27 others and seized more than C$10 million in assets, cash, liquor and firearms, including an AR-15 rifle with a 30-round magazine and a handgun found in the bedroom of the owner of the property. The high-end liquor alone was estimated to be worth in excess of C$1 million.
Multiple Charges Raised
The owner of the operation, Wei Wei, faces charges with selling alcohol without a permit, illegal possession of firearms and operation of illegal gambling establishment. His wife was charged with selling illegally liquor and keeping the proceeds from illegal gambling. Even the couple’s two children were charged with various crimes.
“This is organized crime truly exploiting and demonstrating their money, their positions and opulence thinking somehow that they are above the law.”Brian Bigras, Deputy Chief, York Police Department
The basement of the 20,000 square foot mansion in the suburbs of Markham was transformed into a luxury casino floor, featuring table games, slot machines, cash bar and a kitchen serving patrons food, including some items which are banned like shark fin. The illegal casino used the cover of the upper floors which operated as bed and breakfast.
Allegedly Sex-Trafficking Site
Local police announced it had to call off a raid on the mansion once as children were identified at the site by air surveillance, probably due to the family hosting a private event, hence the armed guards spread across the area. When the tactical forces finally attacked the property, they found out a dozen gamblers around mahjong tables and slot machines, none of which was following any health and safety rules to maintain physical distance and wear face protection.
According to the police, illegal gambling operation was not the sole crime taking place inside the property, believing it could have been used for sex-trafficking operations as well.
“The money moving through these underground casinos leads to huge profits for criminals that fund other ventures such as prostitution and drug trafficking.”Jim MacSween, Police Chief, York Region
High-stakes gambling operations like this can lead to gun violence, armed robberies, kidnapping and extortion, raising the crime levels in the communities, the local police chief concluded. His conclusions did not come as a surprise, as authorities in certain regions of Canada have been raising the alarm for potential casino involvement in large scale money laundering operations in the past few years, the proceeds of which were funding organized crime.