John Colebourn, Postmedia News
Two Metro Vancouver men, one a past lottery winner of a Shaughnessy mansion, face numerous arson and firearms charges after a security breach at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) led to people connected to the Justice Institute of B.C. being terrorized.
In total 15 people were targeted from 2011 to 2012, with some having their homes and cars badly damaged from deliberate fires and gunshots.
The victims all had connections to the Justice Institute, the New Westminster-based school that trains police officers and emergency personnel.
Adam Grossman, spokesman for ICBC, said the corporation dismissed the employee allegedly connected to the security breach in 2011. Grossman said the former employee for the company that insures, licences and registers B.C. drivers and vehicles has yet to be charged and for that reason he could not provide more detail.
At a press conference Monday by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-B.C. (CFSEU), Chief Supt. Kevin Hackett said in some cases the victims had simply parked their cars at the Justice Institute to take their children to a nearby daycare.
Jason Payne / PNGOne of the accused, Vincent Cheung, was the winner of the B.C. Cancer Foundation’s Lifestyles Lottery 2003 grand prize, which included a fully furnished luxury home, a BMW SUV and $25,000 in cash.
Hackett outlined the four-year investigation and said police were able to establish that an ICBC worker had used an office computer to check the victims’ licence plates in order to access personal information.
Vincent Eric Gia-Hwa Cheung, 40, of Langley, was arrested last week in Burnaby. He was the winner of the $2.4-million Shaughnessy mansion, a $60,000 BMW and $25,000 in tax- free cash in 2003.
Cheung, the alleged mastermind of the terror, faces 23 criminal charges including five counts of vehicle arson and 11 counts of causing damage by fire to homes. Thurman Ronley Taffe, 54, of Burnaby, faces one count of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property.
According to CFSEU media liaison Staff Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, the two will appear in court on Oct. 1. They have been remanded in custody.
Houghton said police allege Cheung has ties to the United Nations gang.
“We mentioned at the press conference he (Cheung) has had associations with people in gangs for a very long time,” he said. “It started well before he won that house.”
Houghton said the reasons for the terror spree “will come out in court.”
Nick Procaylo / PNGThe Justice Institute of BC campus in New Westminster, BC., February 2, 2012.
Cheung won the mansion in the B.C. Cancer Foundation Lifestyles Lottery in 2003 when he was 28. He said then that he was an auto mechanic and part-time bartender.
“Every year I buy a ticket and I don’t even win a toaster,” Cheung told The Province at the time. He said he had been buying the foundation’s lottery tickets since his dad died from cancer in 2001, and “I think my dad helped me out this time.”
ICBC’s Grossman said in an email that security has been reviewed and the breach was caught early by co-workers.
“All ICBC employees are subject to a criminal record check before joining us,” Grossman noted.
“There are other ongoing class actions and legal proceedings relating to this incident, but these are still very much before the courts and it would therefore be inappropriate for us to comment on them.
“ICBC follows strict privacy and information security policy and procedures. In fact, it was the integrity of our systems that allowed us to uncover this clear breach of ICBC’s policies and procedures by the former employee, who accessed personal information … without ICBC’s consent.
“Today, every ICBC employee has to sign off on our code of ethics and privacy guidelines once a year. We also introduced new software which has given us greater flexibility in restricting access to customers’ personal information.”
Jenelle Schneider / PNGThis West Vancouver home is one of 14 that have been damaged by arson linked to the Justice Institute. It is believed the attack, that occurred on January 13, 2012, was directed towards the previous owner.
Steve Kee, a spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said personal security is paramount in the insurance business.
“This case underscores the vigilance necessary to protect personal information,” Kee said in a statement.
“In today’s highly technological world, the protection of personal information is a priority for sectors around the world. Canada’s private property and casualty insurers are no different.
“Each insurer has their own protocol in place for protecting private information and comply(ing) with the Government of Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act as well as privacy legislation in place by provincial and territorial governments.
“The insurance industry also provides products and consulting that helps businesses protect private information and manage their cyber risks.”
RCMP handout2012 pictures from the RCMP of a man suspected of committing arson on the West Vancouver Lawson Ave. property of former West Van police chief Scott Armstrong.