Monday, October 21, 2019

Chin Pac versus Asian Assassinz: 2014 Richmond Hill murder exposes long feuding gang rivals

Chin Pac versus Asian Assassinz: 2014 Richmond Hill murder exposes long feuding gang rivals

Timothy Lee told York investigators he planned Richmond Hill murder of Premier Hoang, Brenda Pathammavong on Centre Street in 2014

NEWS Jan 08, 2019 Richmond Hill co-op murder
York Regional Police investigate the scene of a double murder at a Richmond Hill co-op in January 2014.
Car shot
A police officer takes pictures of a car abandoned on Lakeshore Blvd. Aug 2, 2011 - Bernard Weil/Toronto Star
Timothy Lee
Timothy Lee was captured as part of a York Regional Police-led Mr. Big sting operation, which would eventually result in his conviction of the first-degree murder of Premier Hoang. - York Regional Police image
Brenda Pathammavong was killed Jan. 8 when she was shot inside a Lexus parked at a housing co-op in Richmond Hill. Her boyfriend was also killed and her brother injured. - Twitter photo
Premier Hoang, 18, who was killed in a double homicide in Richmond Hill on Jan. 8. - Twitter photo
Carolyn La
Carolyn La is Timothy Lee's former girlfriend, who was also caught up in York Regional Police's sting operation. There is no evidence La had any knowledge of any criminal activity. - Carolyn La/Twitter
Michael Nguyen
Michael Nguyen was shot to death outside Yorkdale Shopping Centre in March 2013.
Erin Maranan, enters a courthouse, June 15, 2018. The Toronto police civilian employee, has been sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to what a judge called an "extremely serious breach of trust:" repeatedly and deliberately accessing confidential information about ongoing criminal investigations. - Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star
Thanh Tien Ngo was gunned down at a Toronto bowling alley in March 2018 after being chased by three men. - Katrina Arrogante/ Toronto Police Service
Police say Ngoc Ngo, a 64-year-old man, was shot in the doorway of his Symington Ave. home in March 2014. - Toronto Police Service photo
Ruma Amar, 32, who was at a bowling alley with her husband and sister, was struck by gunfire and died hours later in the hospital. - Sunil Amar photo
seized guns
Guns and ammunition seized by police during a search warrant related to the Asian Assassinz, included in a 2014 police document. - Vjosa Isai/Toronto Star file photo
Thuan (Tony) Nguyen, 25, was shot dead in 2013 morning outside Vy Vy Restaurant and Lounge in North York. - Toronto Star file photo
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It was like a scene out of a movie when, at the end of a four-month-long sting operation by York Regional Police, the target, Timothy Lee, was arrested alongside an undercover detective.
“Leave him the f--- alone,” the agent, we'll call Michael, screamed at the arresting officers, maintaining his cover until the end as the pair are hauled out of the car and handcuffed.
During the next few days, Lee came to realize what had happened – he’d been duped, betrayed by his best friend.
The evidence garnered by the undercover officer eventually led to Lee’s first-degree murder conviction in the killing of Premier Hoang who was shot to death alongside Brenda Pathammavong on a snowy night in January 2014.
Often murders such as this one are often viewed in a vacuum by the public who are given little information at the time of the killing. But Lee’s trial, earlier this year, put this murder and a string of other killings and shootings in the GTA into sharper focus.
The seeds of these killings were sown out of a simmering gang war that started years before Lee pulled out a gun and fired multiple rounds at a car carrying Hoang and Pathammavong.
It began in 2011 when a fist fight erupted in the Don Jail between two rival gang members: one a Chin Pac, the other a Project Original, an affiliate of the Asian Assassinz.
In the seven years since, police suspect at least 11 murders and a slew of shootings are connected to a long- running feud between the Chin Pac and Asian Assassinz.
While the war has largely been carried out on Toronto soil, on at least two occasions the bloodshed has spilled over into York Region.
The second incident occurred in November 2014 when Jerry Tuan Thanh Phan was shot to death while parked in a BMW SUV outside The Keg while hundreds of diners ate nearby, in Richmond Hill.
Police believe this was payback for the first incident, months before, on Jan. 8, 2014.
That’s when Hoang, 18 and Pathammavong, 16, were murdered at Richmond Hill’s Centre Green Co-op, located on Centre Street, near midnight.
Brenda’s brother, Brandy Pathammavong, 20, survived the hail of six bullets, which struck his body. Both are considered innocent by police.
Following this very public killing, investigators had little to go on, other than the fact a man, nicknamed AREX, exchanged texts with Hoang prior to the shooting.
Police quickly figured out AREX was actually Timothy Lee, a former Richmond Hill man who’d moved to Mississauga.
What followed involved one of York police’s most intricate undercover operations, a controversial technique known in police circles as a “Mr. Big play,” involving a team of 30 officers in a detailed but often spontaneous plan, devised by York police's strategic intelligence Det. Alan Cooke .
A ‘Mr. Big’ investigation involves a covert police operation headed by a fictional leader of a bogus criminal organization.
The suspect is often hired as a criminal associate, while undercover officers gain his trust before using a variety of techniques to extract a confession from him.
However, this involved an important variation, investigators renaming the ploy a ‘Mr. Mentor,’ involving a supposed criminal underling guiding the suspect through a confession.
The details of this particular undercover operation – often criticized for the truthfulness of the confession and whether it’s ethical behaviour for police – were released as part of Lee's first-degree murder trial in April 2018.
The sting, costing about $40,000, began in Dec. 2014, almost a year after the double murder, targeting Lee’s girlfriend at the time, Carolyn La.
Police discovered she had a fondness for designer products and figured they could exploit these desires to gain access to Lee.
La, a former Schulich business school student, was working at Michael Kors in Yorkdale mall when an undercover policewoman approached her and purchased a few items, sparking a friendship with the young saleswoman, a Newmarket court heard.
Before long the undercover officer enticed La with a job offer, hiring her as an “executive concierge,” to provide entertainment services for international guests visiting Toronto including booking hotel rooms, concerts, Toronto Raptor games and fancy dinners.
La was paid up to $100 for multiple hours’ worth of work.
Eventually, a Christmas dinner, at The Keg, was organized with a guest list including all the imaginary firm's employees plus their significant others, including La and Lee.
At the dinner were several police officers masquerading as criminals who set to work bringing an unemployed Lee under their wing.
While outside smoking, the officers can be overheard in police audio tapes played in court ribbing Lee about his chatty girlfriend, who dominated the table conversation for much of the night.
The operation moved quickly after that night. Lee, who was 23 at the time, went to a Raptors’ game where he was given a signed Terrence Ross jersey in a bid to win him over.
Following the game, the ‘leaders’ of the fictitious group began enticing Lee with the chance to be part of their 'criminal group,' which they claimed engaged in a range of activities including financial fraud and theft.
As a way to fit in and potentially gain employment, Lee lied to the undercover officers, claiming to have had both a driver’s license and passport, the court heard.
It worked and before long he was teamed up with the lead undercover agent, Michael (not his real name), day-after-day. Lee eventually found himself in a number of ‘scenarios’ involving different challenges aimed at convincing him the criminal group was legitimate.
The court heard how in one scenario, a “criminal associate” had become embroiled in a Toronto bar fight and had put someone in a coma. The ‘organization’ stepped in, helping him change his identity and move to Calgary, police video shows.
In another, Lee and his associates broke into a tractor trailer to steal crates full of cigarettes. Police also set up a scenario that saw Lee walk into a hotel room where alleged gang members were creating fake credit cards.
Lee was also asked to plant a GPS monitor on a vehicle, so the leaders could ‘make sure’ the owner of the vehicle, a supposed member of the group, was being honest about his whereabouts.
For his role, Lee was often paid a pittance, between $50 and $100, the court heard. However, weaved into all of Lee’s dealings with the group was constant talk about a large-scale credit-card scheme involving “the Russians.”
That deal was held up to Lee as the one that could lead to a huge payoff. While ‘out on the job’ Lee and Michael, whose name is protected by a court ordered publication ban, developed a brotherly bond.
Lee repeatedly discussed details of his personal life, including the fact his parents died when he was a young teenager. All of this was secretly filmed by the team of undercover officers.
As a result, moments of high-family drama was caught on tape, such as Lee criticizing his sister for what he dubbed misspending the family's inheritance.
The court heard Lee tell Michael how his sister hadn’t been giving him his fair share, taking a trip to Bora Bora while he fended for himself.
Lee felt many people in his life took advantage of him. For instance, his friends in Rexdale, who at around age 14 broke into his home and stole things while his mother was sick with cancer. Others, Lee said, refused to pay him back after he’d spotted them drugs.
Lee sealed his status as Michael’s ‘little brother’ when he bought himself a Kangol hat, the same brand as the undercover's.
As the months-long operation unfolded, the pair travelled to Niagara Falls, visiting the casino before pulling away and being stopped by police as seen in the videos shown in court.
After running Lee's identification, the officer mentioned there was a request for him to be interviewed by a York Regional Police detective regarding a homicide.
Undercover operators behind the scenes held their breath when the officer failed to issue the duo a ticket. Following this Lee started questioning what had happened, putting the sting in jeopardy.
“Did she even give you a ticket,” he openly wondered, before dropping the issue.
The issue of trust re-emerged later on, with Lee sharing his misgivings with Michael.
“For the longest time, if you guys thought I was acting strange, I thought you guys were police,” he told the undercover officer. “(But)...every time I came with you guys you guys proved me wrong every time. Why do you think I kept in touch?”
But again, Lee's judgment appears to have been clouded by his immediate predicament. Once he thought homicide detectives were looking for him, the undercover team hatched a plan to protect him.
Lee would be whisked off to Calgary with another ‘criminal associate’ while someone else — someone with a terminal illness, a man with AIDS was mentioned — would take the fall for the crime and do the time for him.
“Our guy is ready to go…he said this is my time…he’s doing his thing with his family on the weekend… whatever, his last rights or whatever,” Michael can be heard telling Lee, before warning him if they are going to succeed, the fall guy needs to know exactly what happened the night of the murder.
“(Details) matter, when he goes and turns himself in, he’s gotta know,” he tells him on recording.
And so, despite clear reservations — at one point asking to speak to the undercover outside of the car — Lee laid out, in painstaking detail, what he’d done.
Lee, a former weed and cocaine dealer, was contacted by his school friend Kevin Kang Pham, an associate of Regent Park’s Chin Pac, the court heard on the surveillance video.
“(Pham) came into my life out of nowhere, I think he lured me into it,” he said. “He lured me in, that’s all it is. I didn’t see him for five years and then he came back into my life out of nowhere.”
Lee further explained how Pham then “sold (him) a dream” about the mountains of money he could earn selling drugs.
“Out of all my friends, everyone is broke and s---, you know what I mean,” he told Michael. “(Pham) came through one day with a nice a-- Benz and s---. I seen him come up, so I wanted to be around that, you know what I mean?”
Soon after, Lee said he was approached by Pham about a plan to contact one of Lee's Facebook friends named Premier Hoang, an alleged former member of the Project Originals.
Premier Hoang, 18, who was killed in a double homicide in Richmond Hill on Jan. 8. - Twitter photo
The plan was for Lee to have Hoang deliver weed to the Centre Green complex where he'd be ambushed.
The allegation, heard in court, was that Pham wanted to kill Hoang as payback for the shooting of Jerry Phan at the CNE. During this 2011 incident, eight bullets pierced the shiny new Lexus Phan was driving, but he survived, only being nicked in the ear.
Pham believed Hoang was responsible for the shooting, or at least that’s what he told Lee.
Lee told Michael during an audio/video recording aired in court, that he contacted Hoang and asked to buy a “QP”, street lingo for a quarter pound of weed.
Lee said he wanted it delivered to Centre Green, close to the Richmond Hill basement apartment Lee used to share with his brother. When Hoang pulled into the parking lot, Lee waved him over, the court heard.
As Hoang approached, Pham and Lee crept up and opened fire, according to Lee’s confession. He told Michael that Pham was on the party drug ecstasy during the murder.
"Once P seen him coming to the alley, he just 'boom,' he didn’t hit him though,” he said. “(Premier) was just running and (Pham) was chasing after him just shooting all over the place. I was just standing there, it happened so fast you know what I mean. (I took) one shot, but it hit the car or some s--- and after it jammed. He took my gun after and finished them off. He ran out of bullets. I guess he hit him a couple of times.”
The Crown alleged 19 shots were fired that night. Lee continued describing how Pham opened the car’s passenger door and began firing into the vehicle, also killing Brenda Pathammavong.
After the double-murder Pham and Lee are believed to have fled the scene in Pham's Camry, which was being driven by another man.
Lee said two other men there that night were Stephen Livingstone, nicknamed Crazy, and Thanh Thung Phan, currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Peter Ngyuen.
According to Lee’s confession, the men broke apart the guns and disposed of them in different areas including downtown and Port Credit. Lee said they burned the clothes they were wearing and urinated on themselves to get rid of the gunpowder residue.
Pham moved to Vancouver, leaving any of his alleged promises to Lee about increased drug sales unfulfilled, according to the Crown.
Pham, originally from Vaughan, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder in the case.
However, the charges were dismissed against him following a preliminary hearing.
The Crown argued Pham was likely the user of a phone within a kilometre of the murder scene days before and that he was an associate of Lee and Livingstone. There was also an allegation that a car similar to his mother’s white Camry can be seen on local surveillance video around the time of the murder.
Newmarket Justice Cindy Johnston, however, said she was unwilling to try Pham not only because of the lack of direct evidence against him but because Lee’s confession was made, not “in furtherance of the conspiracy” (essentially meaning it wasn’t a live conspiracy), rather some 16 months later.
“(For Lee’s confession) to be admissible against the others, the acts must be in furtherance of the common object or design,” she told the court. “Acts done or statements made after the common object has been achieved…are not admissible in evidence against the others.”
Lee took the stand in his own defence, describing his life to the jury in more detail.
He explained how his parents at one point owned a Marvelous Mmmuffins, in Richmond Hill's Hillcrest Mall, where he often worked before his mother died of cancer. The store eventually went out of business and the family car was repossessed.
As the youngest, he said, he grew up in difficult circumstances, dropping out of school in Grade 9 to take care of his father, who eventually died as a result of alcoholism.
Lee said he was left adrift while still a teenager.
The jury didn’t buy it, finding him guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of Hoang and guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Brenda Pathammavong as well as attempt to cause bodily harm for the injuries suffered by her brother Brandy, who are both considered collateral damage by police, in the attack on Hoang.
Lee was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Lee will serve at least 22 years, meaning if he were released at the first opportunity he would be 40.

According to a police source the Asian Assassinz and its underling gang Project Originals and Chin Pac and its underling gang Sic Thugs used to be friendly, but had a falling out that triggered a string of violent retaliatory incidents laid out in the timeline below. It began, according to police intelligence, with a fist fight in the Don Jail.
A police officer takes pictures of a car abandoned on Lakeshore Blvd. Aug 2, 2011 
November 2011 — a Chin Pac member fought a Project Original Member.
March 2012 — a Sic Thug member fought an Asian Assassinz member also in custody.
November 2012 — Qoheleth Ong, a Project Original member was murdered one week after an in-custody fight involving an Asian Assassinz member and a Chin Pac member.
Jan. 1, 2013 — Jerry Phan, an alleged Chin Pac member, was shot at the former Guvernment Nightclub, but he survived.
Feb. 24, 2013 — Thuan (Tony) Nguyen, an alleged Chin Pac member, was shot and killed at Vy Vy Nightclub in North York.
March 21, 2013 — Nisan Nirmalendran, and alleged Sic Thug, was murdered in Toronto, allegedly trying to use an elderly senior as a human shield.
March 30, 2013 — Michael Nguyen, alleged former head of the Asian Assassinz, was shot and killed at Yorkdale Mall. His associate Thanh Danh Ngo survived.
May 11, 2013 — Kevin Pham, associate of Chin Pac, shot inside Joey Restaurant at Yorkdale Mall.
Dec. 6, 2013 — Michael Quan, an alleged member of the Asian Assassinz, was shot at Lakeshore Blvd West and Park Lawn Drive, in Toronto.
Dec. 25, 2013 — Duy Ly Nguyen, alleged former member of Chin Pac, shot 14 times in Scarborough while putting Christmas presents in his car.
January 2014 — Brenda Pathammavong and Premier Hoang, alleged member of the Project Originals, were shot and killed.
Feb. 4, 2014 — Peter Nguyen, alleged new leader of Asian Assassinz following death of Michael Nguyen, shot on Yonge Street.
Feb. 9, 2014 — alleged Asian Assassinz, Hung Pham was murdered.
March 25, 2014 — Ngoc Ngo, the father of Thanh Tien Ngo, alleged Chin Pac, was shot after answering his door.
Nov. 3, 2014 — Jerry Phan, alleged Chin Pac member, shot and killed outside The Keg, in Richmond Hill.
Sept. 20, 2015 — Media reports link this to the shooting of Terry Nguyen, an alleged Asian Assassinz member, who was shot in the neck but survived while at Michael's steak House in Toronto.
Sept. 27, 2015 — Duy Ly Nguyen, alleged Chin Pac member, shot and killed in Vancouver.
March 2018 — Thanh Tien Ngo, alleged Chin Pac, is shot and killed along with innocent bystander Ruma Amar in bowling alley.
June 2018 — Erin Maranan, a former Toronto police employee, from Thornhill, was jailed in June for allegedly passing on information to some of the gang members about the whereabouts of others.

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