Pot, cash, mansions: Judge divvies up illegal estate of divorcing B.C. couple

The Smiths ran a multi-million marijuana operation that spanned three counties

Ending a three-decade marriage that included two daughters, multiple moves, and millions made in illegal marijuana grow operations, Mr. and Mrs. Smith headed to court to try and divide up their illegal assets.

In a judgment posted this week, of a case heard in Nelson, B.C. Supreme Court Justice W.A. Baker attempted to make sense of money that was, legally-speaking, simply not there.

“Due to the illegal nature of the business enterprise, their income was received in cash and normal business records were not kept,” wrote Baker.

“The evidence of both parties relating to the details of the marijuana grow operations, and the cash generated from that business, was unreliable. I was asked to draw inferences from recollections which were inconsistent and unsupported by helpful documentary evidence.”

Instead, Baker heard salacious stories about bags of weed and an August 2013 night caught on video, where “Mr. Smith was seen taking a clear plastic bag filled with US dollars out of the bathroom.”

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (court documents only refer to them by these names) disagreed on how much cash was in the bag: the wife said it was up to $80,000, but Mr. Smith said it contained $20,000.

Baker took the incident as evidence that the family did have some serious money, but wrote that all she could conclude “is that there was some money taken by Mr. Smith.”

As Baker tried to determine what cash the “family business,” which the Smiths ran for more than 20 years, had brought in, she was also left to divvy up their real estate assets: the only evidence of hard money the family had.

The Smiths moved regularly throughout their marriage, and bought homes to go along with each move.

In 1987 they bought a home in Coquitlam for $95,000, out of which Mr. Smith operated a small grow-op.

Next, the family bought a $100,000 in Langley, out of which Mr. Smith again ran a grow-op. His pot production made enough money to cover his family’s expenses.

The Smiths then headed south of the border to California, where they bought a property in Mendocino in the early 1990s. Mr. Smith expanded his marijuana production and built “the grow operation, developed roads, septic, servicing, and installed a double wide trailer on the property.”This, Baker wrote, “was a substantial operation with both indoor and outdoor crops.”

They later sold the home.

The family then sold their old Langley home for $250,000, and bought a new one for $400,000. In 2006, they sold the second home for $895,000. Using that money, they bought a property in La Paz, Mexico for between $75,000 and $100,000, and a property on Strathcona Street in Calgary for $475,000.

They then sold the Calgary property to buy one in Grand Forks, where they began another grow-op. They tried to cover up the illegality of the operation with a medical marijuana licence, but continued to sell marijuana directly – something their licence did not allow.

The couple then bought and sold another Calgary home, leaving the Grand Forks home and a property in Mexico as the only ones still owned by them.

The Smiths separated in August 2013. They told Baker that they had already divided up their liquid assets in half, as is codified under B.C.’s divorce laws.

Baker was left to divide their homes, three vehicles, certain shares, miscellaneous personal items including artwork and goods kept at the Grand Forks property and the proceeds of sale of the Calgary home.

Baker believed that because of Mrs. Smith’s many health issues, she could not have been heavily involved in the family’s business.

The only evidence provided was that Mrs. Smith grew 10lbs of potted marijuana in 2016, and bought more seeds later that year.

“I find that Mrs. Smith was reliant on Mr. Smith throughout their marriage. Mr. Smith was the driving force of the grow operation and controlled the money,” she wrote. “He provided Mrs. Smith with cash as needed to run the household.”

In the end, Baker divided up the homes and investments nearly 50-50. She then gave Mrs. Smith the 1999 Ford truck and the 2003 Volkwagen bug, while Mr. Smith got the newer 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Mr. Smith will have to pay his ex-wife $134,694 within the next two months, and both sides of the former couple are must not get within 100 metres of each others’ homes, nor communicate though their lawyers.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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