To the residents of downtown East, Blue Door offered cheap cannabis to the poor with chronic health problems.
To police and the British Columbia government, the people behind the storefront at 151 Hastings Street have profited from illegal pot sales for more than a decade and used the proceeds to purchase multi-million dollar properties.
The suit, filed on September 14 by the Director of Civil Forfeitures, says Shannon and David Bowman, as well as the True Sympathy Society, “operated or facilitated the operation of an illegal cannabis retail store on the property of 151 East Hastings St. or illicitly sold cannabis, its products and/or cannabis.” illegal since 2010.”
The government agency wants 11 properties owned by the Bowman family, valued at about $15 million, to be turned over as “vehicles of illegal activity.”
The suit says the couple each acted as managers for the association, which ran the store in East Hastings in a building owned by Shannon Bowman.
“At all material times, S. Bowman and D. Bowman have received, directly or indirectly, a material and/or financial benefit from the operations of the True Sympathy Society,” said the director.
Blue Door closed on February 28 when the local government’s Community Safety Unit, accompanied by Vancouver police, raided the unlicensed store and found more than $48,000 in cash and “more than 500 pounds of dried cannabis in Ziploc bags.”
Some money was stuffed into three cash register drawers. Some of it was in five 20-liter pails and a milk crate, the lawsuit said.
The documents said there were “signs mounted on a glass partition on the front desk indicating cash only, prices of various cannabis products for sale, two ATMs and a Bitcoin machine.” Funds have been pooled or mobilized in a manner inconsistent with standard banking practices.
The properties that the government wants to take over were purchased individually or jointly by Baumans between January 28, 2015 and June 29, 2022. The claim statement says some of them had mortgages granted by individuals who were unaware of the allegations.
Shannon purchased the Blue Door Building—now valued at $1,451,400—on March 11, 2016. On the same day, her husband purchased the adjacent unit at 141 East Hastings. It is currently valued at $1,452,700 and is leased to the Overdose Prevention Association.
Four apartments included in the lawsuit and purchased in Vancouver in recent years have current valuations ranging from $303,000 to $1,535,000. There are also four other Bowman properties in Chilliwack that are to be seized and range in value from $594,000 to $1,389,000.
The most expensive piece of real estate in the claim – a $4.1 million West Vancouver home – was purchased by David and Shannon Bowman on June 29, 2022 for more than $4.9 million.
Neither face criminal charges, but Shannon Bowman was fined $30,000 on August 31 for operating a business without a license, according to district court records.
None of Bowman’s family could be reached for comment. No defense statement has yet been provided. Shannon Bowman did not respond to a message sent via Facebook.
Sarah Blyth, executive director of the Association for Overdose Prevention, said Friday that the blue door has been an asset to people in the neighborhood.
“The closing of the blue door was detrimental to the community,” said Blythe, who had not heard of the civil forfeiture case until a Postmedia reporter contacted him.
She said she hopes the lawsuit will not affect the rent for her group at 141 East Hastings.
“They are our landlords. It hardens me to believe we just moved to this location. It would hurt us to have to move again,” Blythe said.
The Director of Civil Forfeiture claims that “some or all of the money used to acquire and/or maintain (Bowman’s) property was the proceeds of illegal activity and/or tax evasion.”
The lawsuit said the alleged criminal activity included possession for the purpose of trafficking, production and sale of illegal cannabis, possession of the proceeds of crime, participation in the activities of a criminal organization, use and possession of a forged document, and laundering of the proceeds of crime. Not declaring taxable income.
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