One of the would-be buyers of a Murrayville House condo was pleased to hear that the site’s developer will be extradited to face a fraud charge in the United States.
“On a personal note, it finally seems there is an inkling of justice,” said Nolan Killeen.
Killeen was reacting to the news that the Supreme Court of Canada denied Mark Chandler the right to appeal his extradition last Thursday.
With his final avenue of appeals exhausted, Chandler is expected to be sent to California within the next few weeks to be put on trial for an alleged fraud that took place between 2009 and 2011.
The Hill Street project never came to fruition, and an FBI investigation was sparked by claims that Chandler defrauded a business partner and two investors.
Killeen has been a spokesperson for a group of people who had hoped to live in the condo complex that sits on a corner near Langley Memorial Hospital and a Township firehall.
Almost none of the would-be buyers live in the condos, which were finally completed in 2018 under the supervision of a court-appointed trustee, after the condo project found itself buried in lawsuits by creditors and placed in receivership.
A judge ruled that the claims of mortgage holders outweighed the rights of pre-sale buyers, and all pre-sales were cancelled. Because condo prices rose so dramatically in 2015 and 2016, almost none of the buyers could afford to buy the units they had put deposits down on.
“Lives have been irreparably damaged because of his actions,” said Killeen.
By 2017, the project owed $62 million to various creditors – while the building was worth less than half that. In addition, the Bowra Group, the trustee for the project, found that the 91 units had been “sold” 149 times. A total of 31 units had been sold twice, 12 sold three times, and one unit four times.
Some buyers paid a discounted purchase price up front expecting to get a condo to either live in or resell on completion. Many paid six figures for those units in what lawyers for Chandler’s Newmark Group claimed were loans.
Langley RCMP confirmed in 2018 that the Murrayville House project was under investigation. No charges have been laid.
Although Chandler is now facing charges in an American court, Killeen hopes the local investigation goes on.
“It needs to continue, because there is a lot more to the story itself,” he said. “It takes a lot more than one person to put this together.”
Around 2015, Chandler was riding high, publicly promoting Murrayville House with a social media contest. He had also acquired control of the closed Sagebrush golf course in Merritt, and planned to reopen by 2016.
Chandler, or his wife, owned homes in the Okanagan, in Surrey, and later in a plush South Langley neighbourhood known as High Point Equestrian Estates.
At the same time, documents released later through the courts showed that some money from the accounts of the numbered company that owned the Murrayville House site were going to clothes, meals, and other personal expenses.
Chandler was also technically under arrest, having been detained and having turned over his passports after charges were filed against him in Los Angeles in 2014. He would continue fighting extradition while his Newmark Group bought and sold several development properties around Langley. Court records show the company owned sites near 208th Street and 80th Avenue and adjacent to the Carvolth Exchange park and ride – sites zoned for high-density housing development.
Small claims lawsuits began to accrue against the company as some contractors claimed late or incomplete payment for work. Most were eventually paid after going to court.
Through 2017, the construction of Murrayville House dragged out past its scheduled completion date. A number of investors began lawsuits and foreclosure proceedings in B.C. courts against either Chandler, himself, or the numbered company that owned the condo project.
The golf course was also facing financial troubles, with a lawsuit over unpaid bills for equipment rentals. The course never re-opened under its Newmark Group ownership.
Creditors are still arguing in court about who will be paid first from any revenues from the Murrayville House condos, which went on the market in 2018.
This is not the first time Chandler has run into trouble in the property market.
In 2000, Chandler was charged with 13 counts including theft, fraud, and forgery in Arizona.
In 2003, he pleaded guilty to one count of theft and the other charges were dropped. He was deported, given three years of probation, and ordered to pay $189,550 in restitution.
Chandler returned to the Lower Mainland and quickly became involved in property development again.
In 2006, a partnership – involving Chandler – to build several high-profile condo projects in Vancouver and Richmond dissolved in lawsuits and acrimony.
Towards the end of that period, a lawsuit involving Chandler’s brother, Richard, shows that Chandler was already in the process of relocating to Los Angeles.
Justice John Steeves noted in a 2013 judgment on the case that the property manager for a house Chandler was renting in Vancouver was contacted by police who were “looking for Mark Chandler but had been unable to locate him. The police believed, according to [property manager] Mr. Fairchild, that Mark Chandler had left the country to avoid legal problems, his company was in receivership and his office was closed.”
Steeves noted that furniture, including a baby grand piano, was missing when the owner repossessed the house.
“There is no evidence as to how or when the furniture was removed, but Mark Chandler is suspected of removing it,” Steeves wrote, although that claim has not been tested in court.
It is unknown what will happen to any remaining assets of the Chandler Group, formerly known as the Newmark Group. The company’s phone number has been disconnected, the newmarklife.com site that advertised the company’s condo projects is shut down.
J.P. Dhaliwal, the former CFO for the firm, said he parted ways with the company in January and does not know what is happening at present.
The company still has an office on 208th Street in Willoughby, but the doors were locked and only one person was inside during a recent visit by the Langley Advance Times. That person did not come to the doors.