Two arrested in fraud case linked to luxury house rentals

A man is facing charges after allegedly using fraudulent documents to turn a home he was renting into a rooming house. Pat Taney speaks to the homeowner who says he was duped by the suspect, and has been fighting to get him evicted for months.

By Pat Taney

A 37-year-old Markham man who CityNews has been tracking for months and a 25-year-old woman from Mississauga are facing several fraud charges following an investigation into housing rentals in north Toronto.

York Regional Police say the investigation began in April 2020 after information was received about a suspect in possession of fake identification documents. Investigators determined the fake documents were being used to rent luxury homes in Markham and Richmond Hill from December 2019 to June 2020.

Police say the properties were then sub-leased as rooming homes and in some cases dozens of people were found residing in the homes and paying rent to the suspects.

Homeowners say they were not paid any rent by the suspects and they have been unable to evict them or the occupants due to COVID-19 restrictions.

John Davies, who owns a property in Thornhill, says his home is one of those that was rented out to one of the suspects.

“Now it’s a mess,” Davies tells CityNews. “There is garbage all over the floor, there are people sleeping in the furnace room and the storage cupboard in the basement.”

Davies says he was duped by a man who claimed he was going to rent it and move his family in. Instead, his home on Brookshire Circle, at one point, housed nearly 20 people.

“We bought this house actually for my wife’s parents and they were living there but they wanted to move in with us which left this house available and we decided to rent it out,” he explained.

Davies claims he signed an agreement to rent the home as a single-family unit to Arif Syed.

“This is in the contract… a legally binding contract,” said Davies.

Davies says in December of last year, he walked into his new nightmare.

“It was only then that we realized that there are massive people in the house, turns out, that every single room in the house was occupied.”

Davies said he was charging Syed around $3,000 per month but, based on his estimate, Syed was making $11,000 per month by sub-letting rooms in the home.

While rooming houses such as this are a violation of Markham’s bylaws, Davies says it’s hard to enforce.

CityNews tracked down Syed last February, who denied operating a rooming house.

An eviction case before the Landlord and Tenant Board last March was dismissed due to a technicality.

That’s when the police investigation began and on Thursday, Arif Adnan Syed and Hafsa Naseer were arrested and charged with two counts each of uttering forged documents as well as identity fraud and one count of fraud over $5,000.

This is not Syed’s first run-in with the law. CityNews discovered he has a lengthy wrap sheet dating back to 2010, including being charged with running unethical businesses.

When reached by phone on Thursday, Syed told CityNews his name will be cleared in court.

“I don’t have fraudulent documents. I have my name, date of birth and my own ID. I will present evidence in court to prove this,” he said.

As for Davies and his home in Thornhill, he’s still waiting to find out how this arrest will impact his case but is hopeful he can force an eviction next week.

“For this person or this tenant to have done this not only to us but to them (renters) is appalling.”

York Region Police Sgt. Andy Pattenden says they believe there are more victims and are asking anyone with information to contact police.

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