B.C. lawyers pay to compensate victims of massive real estate fraud

VANCOUVER — British Columbia lawyers have dug into their own pockets to compensate victims of a complex real estate scheme that a B.C. Supreme Court judge says has shamed the entire legal profession.

VANCOUVER — British Columbia lawyers have dug into their own pockets to compensate victims of a complex real estate scheme that a B.C. Supreme Court judge says has shamed the entire legal profession.

Former Vancouver lawyer Martin Wirick, 54, was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for one of the largest legal frauds in Canadian history.

He pleaded guilty to two counts each of fraud and forgery in connection with more than 100 transactions that left property owners, organizations and financial institutions on the hook for millions of dollars.

According to court documents, the total value of the fraud is estimated to be $40 million. Wirick, who has since been disbarred, was ordered to pay $2 million in restitution.

“You have brought shame upon your former profession,” Judge Patrick Dohm told Wirick as he handed down the sentence.

“You breached the trust placed in you by your former profession and you breached the trust placed in you by the persons who retained you to do what they were unable to.”

Wirick said nothing as he was sentenced.

Details of his crimes are contained in an agreed statement of facts presented in court.

The documents say he and a co-accused spent nearly three years selling and refinancing properties without using the money from those transactions to pay off existing mortgages, leaving victims with debt they believed had already been paid off.

When Wirick confessed in a letter to the Law Society of B.C. in 2002, the group launched its own investigation, took over Wirick’s practice and dipped into a special lawyer-financed fund designed to help victims of legal fraud.

So far, nearly $40 million has been paid out to victims who’ve made claims to the society, including cases that aren’t included in Wirick’s guilty plea. Some of the victims were facing foreclosures on their homes.

“We recognized as soon as the Wirick matter come to our attention that we had to restore public confidence,” Gordon Turriff, president of the law society, said in an interview Tuesday.

“And the only sure way of doing that was to make these people whole again, and we did it.”

The fund, which is similar to other programs in jurisdictions across North America, is mandated by the provincial government and administered by the law society.

With just $7 million in the fund and only $15 million from insurance, Turriff said it fell to B.C.’s 10,000 lawyers to pick up the rest.

The lawyers’ annual fees for the fund jumped from about $250 to $600 in 2003, and have remained higher than normal for the past six years. The society also removed a yearly cap on payouts specifically for this case.

“It was the right thing to do, and as a result some people who were put through a lot of anxiety by Mr. Wirick were recompensed as much as we could,” said Turriff.

The law society also introduced new rules designed to prevent such fraud from happening again, specifically requiring stricter reporting of trust accounts and mortgage discharges.

Wirick, who has since filed for bankruptcy, claims he never benefited financially and that most of the money went to his co-accused, Tarsem Singh Gill.

Gill hasn’t yet entered a plea, but has elected for a jury trial in B.C. Supreme Court. He’s scheduled for a preliminary hearing in March of next year.

Just Posted

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

PHOTOS: Buccaneers battle Wolfpack in AFL semifinal

The Central Alberta Buccaneers battled the Calgary Wolfpack in the Alberta Football… Continue reading

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Indonesia’s Lombok island jolted by multiple quakes

SEMBALUN, Indonesia — Strong earthquakes jolted the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok… Continue reading

Afghan president calls for Eid cease-fire, Taliban to reply

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a conditional cease-fire… Continue reading

Montreal may have less influence after October provincial election

MONTREAL — When Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault recently dismissed the… Continue reading

Privacy issue with online pot sales after legalization needs watching: experts

TORONTO — Buyers who have to provide personal information to purchase recreational… Continue reading

Range of reactions to possible holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

The federal government’s intention to enact a statutory holiday aimed at remembering… Continue reading

Wildfire smoke from B.C. gets in the way of mountain scenery for tourists

JASPER, Alta. — Smoke from wildfires that’s blanketing parts of Alberta does… Continue reading

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

The once meat-dominated world of fast-food and casual restaurants is starting to… Continue reading

Thousands to attend funeral service for officers killed in Fredericton shooting

FREDERICTON — Hundreds of people have lined the route of a funeral… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month