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13 Sep

Vancouver real estate developer faces lawsuits, extradition to U.S.


Posted by: Kimberly Walker

Mark John Chandler claimed “to be one of the biggest real estate developers in Canada” when he reached out to a New York money lender in 2011, according to court filings.

Now, the Vancouver developer faces the prospect of being shipped to the U.S. to face charges in an alleged “fraudulent scheme” involving Los Angeles real estate. The FBI alleges in court documents that Chandler may have used investors’ funds to “support his lifestyle.”

Closer to home, Chandler’s 92-unit latest Metro Vancouver condo development sits empty more than a year past its anticipated move-in date, mired in a complex tangle of legal disputes, including homebuyers alleging breach of trust, private lenders launching foreclosure actions, and a municipality seeking to recover more than three years’ worth of unpaid taxes.

Corporate records show Chandler is the director of the Newmark Group and several other companies named in a series of lawsuits and foreclosure involving the Newmark condo development in the Township of Langley called Murrayville House.

Though the legal disputes involve tens of millions of dollars (two creditors who have already obtained judgments against Chandler’s companies worth more than $12.5 million, according to legal filings), they may not be the most pressing item on Chandler’s plate this week: he’s to appear Friday in B.C. Supreme Court, where the U.S. seeks his extraditionin the Los Angeles case dating to 2009, according to documents filed in court.

Chandler is alleged to have pitched a highrise condo development on L.A.’s Hill Street to “victim investors,” making false representations to obtain their money, according to court filings. California investors allegedly “put up property as collateral for Mr. Chandler’s Hill Street project and lost the properties in foreclosure proceedings when Mr. Chandler’s promised repayments did not materialize,” according to court filings.

Chandler, reached by phone this week, did not provide his side of the story.

Last month, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 34 individuals and B.C. companies each claiming to have bought strata lots last year in the Langley development. The notice of claim alleges each buyer entered into agreements of purchase and sale with numbered companies controlled by Mr. Chandler, paying deposits usually between $150,000 and $250,000 each, money that was to be held in trust. The claim alleges that, in breach of the agreements, Chandler’s numbered company “entered into contracts for purchase and sale for each of the strata lots with third parties.”

Last week, responses were filed on behalf of Chandler’s numbered companies, with one claiming “the true nature of the transactions between the plaintiffs and (the numbered company) was as loans. … Notwithstanding the terms of some of the documents signed between the plaintiffs and (the company), it was never intended that the plaintiffs would actually become owners of the units in question.”

The response also says, as of the date of its filing last Thursday, construction of the Langley project has been completed and the “units are becoming ready for sale,” adding “the Murrayville Project has suffered substantial cost overruns.”

B.C.’s Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate does not discuss current investigations nor confirm whether an investigation exists, but, said office spokesman Mykle Ludvigsen, “I can assure you that every complaint made to our office is investigated.”

“That being said, allegations of the type (described in the civil lawsuit) would be of interest to our office,” said Ludvigsen.

Chandler’s past dealings with B.C. regulators include a 2006 order from B.C.’s then-superintendent of real estate, W. Alan Clark, ordering the developer to stop marketing units in several Vancouver condo projects, after Clark found the information before him raised “a serious concern and a likelihood that Chandler, acting on behalf of the developers, has sold one or more development units in the developers’ developments to more than one purchaser.”

Postmedia reached Chandler by phone Tuesday to explain a story was scheduled about the Murrayville foreclosures, the homebuyers’ lawsuit, and the U.S. extradition hearing. Chandler said he was in B.C., but not sure whether he would attend Friday’s hearing. Soon afterwards, he cut off further questions by passing the phone to his associate, who he said would respond to allegations. The associate, identified as James Cronk, then said he could not answer questions about any legal proceedings, but, before hanging up, said he would phone right back with more information.

Chandler and Cronk did not phone back Tuesday nor answer a call on Wednesday.

The Township of Langley claims it is owed almost $300,000 in outstanding taxes on the Murrayville development, according to information provided by the municipality, with each of the 92 units to be individually put up for sale at a public auction later this month unless the taxes are paid. The delinquent taxes must be paid by certified cheque by Thursday at 4 p.m. or they will go to auction.

The following morning at 10 a.m., Chandler’s extradition hearing is scheduled in downtown Vancouver. Chandler is required by law to appear in person at Friday’s hearing where his defence lawyer is expected to argue against his extradition, said John Gibb-Carsley, a lawyer with the federal Justice Department, who is acting on behalf of the U.S. in the case.

Chandler was indicted in Arizona in 2000 on 13 charges of fraud, theft and forgery. He entered into a plea agreement in 2003 and was deported to Canada and ordered to pay $189,500 in restitution, The Vancouver Sun’s David Baines reported in 2006.

As of this week, no one is living in the Murrayville development, according to the Township of Langley.