Canadian NBA player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has won what’s likely to be a precedent-setting lawsuit to undo his $8.4-million purchase of a Burlington, Ont., lakefront mansion where Ontario’s self-described Crypto King Aiden Pleterski used to live.
Last month, a CBC Toronto investigation was first to report on Gilgeous-Alexander’s lawsuit to void the sale. The suit alleged the sellers fraudulently misrepresented the luxury home by failing to disclose an alleged series of threatening visits to the property — happening daily, at times — by those looking for Pleterski before the NBA star bought it.
Pleterski, 25, had previously been leasing-to-own the mansion for about $45,000 a month — until his cryptocurrency and foreign exchange investment operation unravelled last year as investors came looking for the more than $40 million they’d given him.
In a summary judgment issued in November, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Centa found there had been fraudulent misrepresentation in the sale. He voided Gilgeous-Alexander’s purchase of the home and awarded the basketball player damages for mortgage and insurance payments he’s had to pay since starting the lawsuit.
“[The seller] suppressed the truth about the Burlington property, which in this case amounted to a fraudulent misrepresentation,” wrote Centa in his Nov. 27 decision.
“However, it also went further and made positive representations that the property was private and secure. Those representations were knowingly false.”
Judgment 1st of its kind: real estate lawyer
John Zinati, a long-time Toronto real estate lawyer who was not involved in the case, told CBC Toronto this is the first time he’s ever seen a judge order a seller to buy back a property after closing.
“I’m pretty shocked by this,” he said. “Anybody who is thinking about not disclosing something about a house should think twice because of this decision. From my perspective, it really expands what you have to disclose about a house.”
Zinati said that’s because in the past, cases involving damages or getting out of real estate contracts for safety reasons generally related to physical issues with the house, like mould or radioactivity.
“There’s no claim here that there’s a physical problem with the house,” he said. “What they’re saying is that something external to the physical condition of the house can impact the safety of the residence — but not only that, it will let you out of the deal.”
Sumeet (Sonu) Dhanju‑Dhillon, a lawyer for the seller of the Burlington property, declined to comment on the decision. She previously told the Toronto Star her client was “disappointed with the finding that safety concerns at the property in the summer of 2022 were relevant to the listing and sale of the property in 2023 and therefore intends to appeal the decision.”
Gilgeous-Alexander’s lawyer also declined CBC Toronto’s request for comment.
Couple told Pleterski defrauded some ‘very bad people’
The decision provides further details on how the Oklahoma City Thunder guard and his girlfriend learned about the home’s history and Pleterski. As previously reported, just days after moving into their new house, a stranger appeared at the door looking for Pleterski.
Unnerved by the visit, Gilgeous-Alexander’s girlfriend reported the incident to police. She was told they had previously received reports of people trying to break into the property. A contact in the private security business also told the couple “Mr. Pleterski had defrauded some ‘very bad people’ and that someone had threatened to burn down their new house,” according to the judgment.
“Whether or not these latter statements were true, [the couple was] sufficiently alarmed by this news that they moved out of their newly purchased dream house, never to return,” wrote Centa.
“As is now clear, the persons behind the vendor of the Burlington property knew all of this and much more when they listed it for sale. None of this information was disclosed when the Burlington property was marketed and sold.”
The Toronto-born NBA player’s successful lawsuit is just the latest twist in a more than year-long CBC Toronto investigation into Ontario’s Crypto King, which has also included a search for millions in investor funds, the arrest of one his investors for allegedly kidnapping him and Pleterski’s continued travels to the U.K., Miami and Australia while bankrupt.
Pleterski’s bankruptcy proceeding found evidence that he invested about two per cent of investor funds while spending nearly $16 million on himself — renting private jets, going on vacations, adding luxury cars to his collection and leasing to own the Burlington property.
‘Crypto King’ leased property for $45K a month
Pleterski entered into a lease-to-own agreement for the property with a numbered company controlled by Ray Gupta, founder of the hotel and development company Sunray Group, and his son, Sandeep Gupta, in March 2021, according to court and bankruptcy records.
Sandeep Gupta acted as Pleterski’s landlord while he lived in the 10,000-square-foot lakefront mansion. He told the bankruptcy proceeding that Pleterski moved out of the property in June or July 2022 and into another property owned by their company, rent-free, because “there was a lot of concern for his safety.”
The seller’s statement of defence had argued there was no duty to disclose visits to the house and the history of the property because they didn’t make the home unfit or dangerous.
“Notwithstanding the fact that Aiden was abducted, any visit to the Property by an individual inquiring about its former occupant would be viewed as an entirely normal occurrence,” reads the statement of defence.
Pleterski was allegedly kidnapped in December 2022, several months after he moved out of the Burlington mansion. This July, five men were charged with kidnapping him, including an investor who lost $740,000, according to court records.
WATCH | CBC Toronto received video of beaten Aiden Pleterski apologizing to investors
As part of the bankruptcy proceeding, Sandeep Gupta said he received a call from Pleterski asking for a ransom of $3 million after the abduction. But he said he did not give Pleterski or the kidnappers the money and Pleterski was later released near Sandeep Gupta’s residence, according to his bankruptcy examination transcript.
In his decision, Centa found that Sandeep Gupta’s “perception of danger derived from his connection to Mr. Pleterski through the Burlington property, the debts Mr. Pleterski owed to the creditors, and the fact that Mr. Pleterski was dropped off by the kidnappers where Sandeep lived.”
“I have no doubt that Sandeep would be very alarmed by knowing that the kidnappers knew where he lived. That fear is reasonable,” wrote Centa.
“I find that Mr. Gilgeous-Alexander and [his girlfriend] would have a similar and equally reasonable fear about the Burlington property.”
Safety concerns more than ‘superstitions’: judge
As a result, Centa found the couple’s safety concerns could not be written off as “sensitivities or superstitions.”
“A ‘superstition’ is believing that a commercial building is unfit for use because it is haunted … A ‘sensitivity’ is finding out that there is a nude beach near your property,” wrote Centa.
“There is a significant difference between the examples of sensitivities and superstitions described above and the objectively reasonable danger generated by the repeated and ongoing visits to the property by angry creditors who were enraged that Mr. Pleterski defrauded them and misappropriated over a million dollars of their money to invest in the Burlington property.”
Pleterski’s bankruptcy trustee previously reported that Peterski paid $1.1 million in a deposit and to rent Burlington property. In its most recent report from October, the trustee said the bankruptcy is still considering its position in terms of rights regarding the mansion.
Toronto fraud-recovery lawyer Norman Groot, who is not involved in the case, said this judgment could help out the bankruptcy proceeding if it wants to recover funds Pleterski spent towards the Burlington property.
“They no longer need to consider proceeding against the purchasers of the home,” said Groot.
“So that should eliminate some of the risk on recovery if you get a judgment or an order.”
In addition to undoing the agreement of purchase and sale of the property, the judge ordered the sellers to compensate Gilgeous-Alexander for all of the mortgage payments and insurance payments he’s made on the property since filing the lawsuit last June.
“In my view, the ongoing safety risk rendered the Burlington property dangerous and unfit for habitation.”