Mess Media




Province, accused bike thief settle case


Globe and Mail, December. 4, 2009

Ontario has settled its civil suit to seize used-bicycle dealer Igor Kenk's assets, paving the way for the disposal of nearly 2,200 bikes that went unclaimed after a series of high-profile police raids in the summer of 2008.

Since then, the bicycles, most of them old junkers, have been stored in the former Heydon Park Secondary School in the city's west end. The old school will soon be demolished to make way for Toronto Police's new 14 Division headquarters, home to the same investigators who led the raids on Mr. Kenk's rented storage garages after arresting him near his Queen Street West bike shop.

“It's the province's problem now,” Superintendent Ruth White, commander of 14 Division, said of the cache of bikes and parts, after the settlement was approved Friday by Mr. Justice Craig Perkins.

The Attorney-General's Ministry launched the forfeiture proceeding under the Civil Remedies Act, which aims to return proceeds of crime to the public, within weeks of Mr. Kenk's arrest in July of 2008. It was seeking to seize and sell Mr. Kenk's bike shop, two pickup trucks and the roughly 2,200 used bicycles left over after nearly 600 additional bikes were reclaimed by previous owners at a series of open houses.

The province claimed the assets, valued in court filings at more than $750,000, were either obtained through or used as instruments of unlawful activity, namely a scheme in which Mr. Kenk allegedly paid a network of 10 to 15 thieves to bring him bikes in exchange for drugs.

Following his arrest, police raided 12 properties, most of them back-alley garages Mr. Kenk had rented in the city's west end, and seized the bicycles along with significant amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Mr. Kenk was charged with dozens of stolen-property counts related to the bicycles and with possession of drugs for trafficking purposes.

He obtained bail in August of 2008, but it was revoked last December after he visited one of his rental garages and landed in a confrontation with its new owners. He was accused of swinging a piece of copper plumbing pipe, charged with assault and put in the Don Jail, where he remains.

Mr. Kenk, 50, has yet to see a resolution to any of the criminal counts, but that did not deter the province from invoking the relatively new and little-known Civil Remedies Act in a bid to seize his property. Had the civil case gone to trial, the government would have had to prove only on a balance of probabilities – not beyond a reasonable doubt, as required under criminal law – that the property was obtained by or used to commit crime.

Friday's settlement was reached before the court could test the government's case, which hinged on affidavits from Toronto police who led the criminal investigation. Court filings showed that officers relied on a confidential source for information about Mr. Kenk's alleged drugs-for-bikes enterprise. Court never heard testimony from the source, nor does the case file contain any written statements from the informant.

Details of the settlement were not disclosed in court Friday, and lawyers for the Attorney-General and Mr. Kenk declined to elaborate on the deal outside court.

Jacob Stilman, lawyer for Mr. Kenk, said the government's forfeiture application “was going into uncharted legal waters in the sense of asserting that the building was an instrument of criminal activity.” He suggested “there would have been a lot of interesting legal and evidentiary issues” had the case gone to trial, but also serious implications for his client, who stood to lose virtually everything he owns.

“While it's fascinating from a lawyer's perspective,” Mr. Stilman said, “the stakes are very high for the person at the receiving end of the litigation.”

According to court filings, Mr. Kenk paid $85,000 for his shop in 1995 and is mortgage-free. Its value has since skyrocketed due to gentrification along trendy Queen Street West, to as much as $700,000, according to court documents. The bicycles were recently appraised at just over $50,000, and the two Toyota pickup trucks at $14,000.

A handcuffed Mr. Kenk appeared briefly in court this week for a scheduled bail review hearing, but his criminal lawyer, Lon Rose, asked for an adjournment to Dec. 11. Mr. Rose recently told court that a resolution of the criminal charges is in the works.