Over 18 years of friendship, Eunice Chan said she had built a bond with Po Yuk “Peggy” Chan. They traveled the world together, were part of the same church community, and Eunice Chan even introduced her friend to members of her family.
“[If] “If she asked me to do anything, I would do it because I trusted her,” Eunice told Breaking: in an interview.
She is now embroiled in a series of lawsuits involving former real estate agent and mortgage broker Peggy Chan, alleging that her longtime friend defrauded her out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It’s a surprise, it’s a shock… I know someone tricked me,” he said.
Breaking: first reported on the allegations about Peggy Chan in February 2023. Last month, York Regional Police announced that the Markham, Ont., woman He had been charged with multiple crimes related to fraud.
Police allege that from 2016 to 2021, the former agent defrauded people who did not speak or read English well by registering mortgages on their homes and withdrawing the proceeds. Through her lawyer, she denies the accusations.
Even with the criminal charges, some of the alleged victims who spoke to Breaking: still have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage payments. As lenders try to collect, some alleged victims are now at risk of losing their homes.
Experts say this is the reality in many fraud cases: Even when criminal charges are filed, and even when there is a conviction, the burden falls on victims to try to recover money through civil lawsuits. They say the process is challenging, time-consuming and can leave some financially devastated.
Allegedly fraudulent mortgages
York Region Police say the criminal charges involve five alleged victims, including Eunice Chan and Tina Li, both of Markham, who spoke to Breaking:. at the beginning of this year.
Eunice claims that in 2021, Peggy Chan, who is not related to her, approached her with the idea of purchasing an investment property together.
She said Peggy, 50, convinced her to open a joint bank account and took her to a lawyer’s office to sign the paperwork. Eunice said she believed the paperwork was related to the purchase of the property.
“At that point, there was no doubt in my mind,” said Eunice, who alleges in court papers that she was rushed to fill out paperwork at the attorney’s office and then Peggy visited her at her home to sign more documents.
She said her friend later told her the purchase was not moving forward. It wasn’t until about a year later that Eunice said she received a letter from a lawyer about a $300,000 mortgage on her own property.
The 64-year-old woman said she later learned that two mortgages had been taken out on her home, one for $850,000 and another for $300,000, without her knowledge. The winnings, she claims, were deposited into the joint account and then withdrawn by Peggy.
Eunice said she can’t afford to pay the mortgages, and the lender on the $850,000 mortgage is seeking foreclosure actions, which means her home could be repossessed. An appeal for validity of the mortgage was heard two weeks ago and the judge’s decision is expected in the coming weeks.
It’s a reality Shirley Xialian said she knows all too well. In court documents, she claims she used her life savings to purchase property in Toronto. Given her modest income, she alleges that Peggy Chan offered to broker a mortgage loan to facilitate the purchase.
Instead, he claims Chan misrepresented the terms of the loan and took out a second mortgage on the purchased home without his knowledge. The 59-year-old woman said she was forced to sell the house to pay off the two mortgages, she was left with about $11,000 and now rents a room in a basement apartment.
“I sold my house because the pressure was too great,” he told Breaking: through an interpreter.
Tina Li, 45, who shared her story with Breaking: in February, is another alleged victim of fraud. She said she continues to fight the mortgages placed on her property, but is worried about losing her home as one of the lenders seeks to enforce a $400,000 mortgage, which Li said was obtained without the knowledge of her.
“Although [Peggy Chan] was arrested and charged, we are still responsible for the payments she deceived us,” Li told Breaking:.
Criminal versus civil courts
Some fraud experts said it can take police a significant amount of time to file criminal charges, if they are filed at all.
“It’s pretty rare for criminal charges to be brought, and I think that speaks to the seriousness of this case,” said Vanessa Iafolla, director of Anti-Fraud Intelligence Consulting in Halifax.
But even with criminal charges, it is still necessary to file lawsuits through civil courts to try to recover the money because the two cases are completely separate, a system Iafolla called flawed.
“The reality for most fraud victims is that justice is long, slow and incomplete.”
Norman Groot, an attorney whose firm focuses on fraud recovery litigation for victims, said one of the main problems in any case is the speed at which stolen money is traced and then frozen or preserved.
“Criminal cases can last for years. In all likelihood, any stolen money … will be dissipated for a long time,” said Groot, whose firm, Investigation Counsel Professional Corporation, has offices in Toronto and Vancouver.
He said the best option for many victims is to try to trace the stolen money through the civil courts as soon as possible.
“It’s very difficult because most of the time the people who file the complaint (the victims) have been cleared by the scammer and don’t have funds to spend on a civil attorney,” Groot said.
Dozens of properties affected: investigator
Private investigator Brian King, who has been investigating cases involving Peggy Chan for almost a year, said it’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle.
“I have one [case] What am I driving right now? [where] a single mortgage costs $900,000. So when you do the math on all these mortgages, we’re talking more than $10 to $20 million,” said King, president and CEO of King International Advisory Group in Richmond Hill, Ont.
He has been retained by title insurance companies representing homeowners or lenders and is currently investigating eight claims on six properties. But he said he knows of dozens of other properties that have been affected by Chan’s alleged actions.
King said he has seen no evidence that the lenders were complicit in the alleged fraud.
He said that while he sees many cases of mortgage fraud where someone impersonates a homeowner to obtain a mortgage and withdraw the funds, what makes these cases more complex is that in some cases, the real homeowners signed the paperwork. , saying they thought it was for something different.
The other complexity is the alleged involvement of a registered mortgage broker.
“Suddenly, you have someone who understands the system and knows how to manipulate things through the system,” King said.
Lawyer denies accusations
In an interview with Breaking: last month after the charges were laid, Peggy Chan’s lawyer, David Myers of Markham, said his client is cooperating with police and was released on her own recognizance. Her first court appearance is scheduled for later this month.
He kept his previous claim that the alleged victims knew what they were signing and that they voluntarily participated in real estate investments that did not materialize as they expected. It is a claim they deny.
Breaking: previously reported that Chan is listed as “not authorized to sell” under her mortgage broker license. While she was previously listed as a seller in the Real Estate Board of Ontario directory, a search for her name now returns no results. An email to Breaking: from former employer Bay Street Group Inc. Brokerage states that “she is no longer with us,” as her license was canceled in May.
Meanwhile, York Region Police believe there are more alleged victims and are urging them to come forward. The three women who spoke to Breaking: are also asking other alleged victims to report their claims to police.
“I hope more people have the courage to speak out,” said Tina Li.
As for Eunice Chan, who is awaiting a judge’s decision on the validity of one of the mortgages, she said she hopes not to lose the house she has lived in since 2012.
“I need to take care of my mom,” he said, adding that his house is near the center where he visits his mother daily.
“I can’t buy another house even though I worked so hard at my age… for me, at my age, it’s irreversible.”