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February 21, 2012

The Runaway Landlord, Part 2

Right before this year’s Chinese Spring Festival, five out of more than 60 victims of the housing scam went to the police station together and officially filed their complaint against the alleged swindler Ryan Fedoruk. The preliminary investigation conducted by the police lasted for a month and the result was released on 15th Feb, 2012.

buyuliantongzhishuThe case was not classified as criminal. The left image is a copy of the official notification (made pursuant to Article 86, Criminal Procedure Law of The People’s Republic of China) to Peng Fan (Pax), a victim who the police had assigned as representing the other victims. It states that the facts they found were incidental.

Officer Xu, the police who was in charge of the case said, “It is fraud, but it is not criminal.”

There is a difference between criminal offense and civil wrong. The police believed that as long as Ryan Fedoruk performed part his contractual obligations, the case is a contract dispute. The police added that the existing evidences they looked into suggested that the case was a civil wrong, and recommended victims to sue Fedoruk in People’s Court. Investigation files, including statements from victims and testimonies from landlords, are available with the police upon court’s order.

The police will pay attention to Entry and Exit Records to see if Fedoruk returns to China. According to records with the police, Fedoruk left the territory of China on 29th December, 2011

It may not be the case. On Feb 14th, 2012, an American citizen wrote an email stating “I am 90% positive I saw this guy last Saturday morning. The staff says he is a regular there. He got worried when I talked with him.” If that was indeed Fedoruk, he was spotted at Costa Coffee located at Madang Road in Shanghai.

Has Fedoruk left China as records indicate? Or could he be in China with a fake passport? The police made no comment on the matter.

The power-of-attorney that the five victims signed with my firm authorized me to 1) file a report with Shanghai Police 2) submit relevant evidence to police for their review, and 3) receive relevant documents. Either my firm or myself will be able to provide further legal aid on a pro bono basis for this case. We are open to the possibility of initiating a civil class action if two conditions can be met: a) the victims authorize us to do so, and b) Fedoruk can be located.

In my opinion, the case is not worth pursuing in People’s Court if Fedoruk cannot be located. Furthermore, it would cost the victims too much in energy and court fees, attorney fees, and other expenses. Unlike in common law countries, attorney fees in mainland China over such case are not collected from the losing party, but sustained by clients themselves.

Ryan-FedorukThe police also said that a “Departure Restriction” order may be applied if a civil case is filed in People’s Court. Under such an order, Fedoruk would need to pay off all his debts before being allowed to leave China. Officer Xu mentioned that men like Ryan Fedoruk would usually try to “bi feng tuo” – avoid getting caught by disappearing for a while and come back later.

Many victims had expressed that they had little faith that they would get their money back from Fedoruk, but expected that he would get caught. While the law failed to bring justice in this case, the case has been looked into and is on record with the police. Moreover, Fedoruk’s alleged scam has been exposed in print and online media in both China and Canada. If nothing else, Fedoruk’s ability to execute large-scale scams, as he had allegedly done in not only Shanghai but also Harbin and Zhuhai, has been greatly impacted.

Many have contributed in the effort to bring Fedoruk to justice. My thanks to Daniel Kwan, a dear friend who has been liaising between me and the victims and updating them throughout the case. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the more than 60 victims who wrote emails and provided their individual statements. Despite the unfavorable outcome, they did the right thing by taking action and likely prevented Fedoruk from causing further damage.

Please feel free to email me your thoughts and questions at eva@evaslaw.com.

Update (April 26)
Daniel: Folks from ICS got in touch with Eva and me. They believe that Ryan is very likely in Thunder Bay, Ontario, at his parents’ home. An ICS staff member contacted a local station at Thunder Bay and asked if they could look into this story, and later was informed that somebody at the station apparently knows Ryan and tipped him off. So they have not been able to get in touch with Ryan, but calls to the home asking for Ryan would immediately be hung up.

ICSAccused Landlord Back in Canada

February 21, 2012