Public shaming: for a Chilliwack landlord an attempt to get what’s owing from deadbeat tenants

Chris Thompson set up a website with photos and allegations to try to get some justice.

This story originally appeared in the July 7, 2016 edition of the Chilliwack Times

A Chilliwack man whose rural property was the subject of a mysterious barn fire and later a break-and-enter where pieces of ID were left behind is taking matters into his own hands.

And this isn’t the first time Chris Thompson has tried to use a website full of photos and allegations as a form of public shaming into getting some justice.

Then there is the 10s of thousands of dollars in security systems he’s put in place to ensure it never happens again.

Thompson’s woes began when he leased out an unused chicken barn on his Greendale property in 2014 to a young Abbotsford couple for a legal medical marijuana grow operation.

But then, on March 28, 2015, with $37,000 in rental arrears and a $30,000 unpaid BC Hydro bill he ordered them out of his building and off his property.

“They were hopelessly in arrears,” Thompson told the Times at his house.

Nine days later, on April 6, the grow-op and the barn were destroyed by fire.

At that time, the Chilliwack Fire Department confirmed the growing of marijuana on site was legal. The fire was under investigation but was considered accidental, a determination that, despite what Thompson says now, Asst. Fire Chief Mike Bourdon confirmed still stands.

Then in August 2015, deciding on a little getaway for he, his wife and his children, they headed off to Tofino for three days.

On Aug. 26 he received a call from the male of the couple who were tenants, the first time he’d heard from him since the fire.

“My tenant, who never phones and who has not been in contact since he was evicted, calls,” he said. “He says ‘Hey Chris, I’ve got some money for you, are you around?’ “I said ‘Oh no, I’m on the island, I’ll be back Saturday. Don’t spend the money.’” That was his big mistake.

“I’ve just told this guy I’m away for three days.”

When they arrive back at the property on Aug. 29, the house has been broken into, the front door smashed in. They took alcohol, stole diamond earrings, a Louis

Vuitton handbag, a child’s scooter and Stihl power tools, among other things. There were also TVs, computers and other items seemingly ready to go at the front door.

“It looked like they were interrupted,” Thompson said.

And then what he found in his office was odd.

“Whoever had been in my office appeared to have been extremely interested in paperwork that was associated to the barn fire and the insurance documents.”

Then, much to his great shock, he found a B.C. Services Card and B.C. driver’s licence belonging to the female of the couple with the grow-op. Also found were travel insurance documents belonging to both of them.

“Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up,” Thompson wrote on the website he set up

to shame the couple into paying him back the $67,000 he says they owe him. “Here it was, in my home. Her ID, and their travel insurance cards. She has never been in my home. I could not believe what I was seeing.”

On the site he posted photos of the young couple taken from a Facebook page, their full names and dates of birth, images of the ID he found in his house, even anecdotes about their families including the coincidental fact that a large barn on the woman’s parents’ dairy farm in Abbotsford was destroyed by fire on June 28, 2015.

Five years ago, Thompson used the same website as a form of vigilante justice and to try to find information about someone who stole his wife’s handbag out of her car in Yarrow. At that time, he tracked down the use of a pre-paid cellphone that was stolen. He did a reverse search of numbers called by the phone, found two listed numbers and he posted information about the two individuals involved.

“I wanted to bring at least some discord to whoever stole from me,” he said at the time.

The RCMP had no response to what he was doing since it was not illegal.

And then criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley, Darryl Plecas, said that often websites like this can indeed be effective, but they can be very dangerous.

“All of what he is doing is gratuitous in a way; he doesn’t have to do this,” Plecas said in 2011. “I think there is a potential for some public safety issues to come down the road as there always would be with vigilantism.”

But Thompson was undeterred then and again now despite the fact that he has good reason to suspect the couple may be tied up with some higher level drug dealers and gang-connected individuals.

And while he might not admit it, he has recognized the possibility the couple he is openly shaming on this website may themselves be victims of others attempting to frame them.

“They all lie cheat and steal from each other,” he said.

Given what he thinks these people could be involved with, Thompson has rigged up his property with, so far, approximately $40,000 worth of security equipment, including 11 cameras and 17 high-intensity lights.

“I just don’t want to be a target anymore,” he said.

As for the website, Thompson said he’ll take it down if the couple who had the grow-op on his property “come clean” and pay him what is owing.

“Interestingly, I was expecting to start receiving legal notices right away,” he writes on the website, which was set up Oct. 6. “YET to date there has been no formal legal demand to have this material removed. Can anybody guess why? I would suggest that if this was not true then a lawsuit would have been filed by now.”


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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