This is the second in a series of three articles delving into fraud artists with links to Langley, and how large-scale financial fraud is investigated in B.C.
Former Langley real estate developer Mark Chandler sits in Terminal Island, a low-security federal prison in San Pedro, Calif., serving a six-year sentence for a multi-million dollar fraud scheme. It’s his second conviction in the United States.
In 2015, Chandler was busy launching a media blitz for Murrayville House – a condo project he was developing and marketing, located just across the street from Langley Memorial Hospital.
A developer and builder with Canadian and British citizenship, he had spent almost two decades involved in projects in the B.C. market, and in various cities in the United States.
But while Chandler was busy taking selfies with locals at the Langley condo launch, he was already facing criminal charges south of the 49th Parallel.
Extradition proceedings would begin that same year.
Between 2009 and 2011, Chandler was the prime mover behind a supposed development on Hill Street in Los Angeles, intended to turn a parking lot into a condo complex.
The project collapsed, leaving victims out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Several victims had put up homes or other property as collateral for Chandler, and they lost that property when he defaulted on loans. One victim had to declare bankruptcy.
Criminal charges were filed in 2014, after an FBI investigation.
“Over the course of nearly two years, [the] defendant [Chandler] executed a fraudulent scheme that caused considerable losses to a significant number of victims,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing arguments in 2021, when Chandler – after lengthy delays in the extradition and then due to COVID – entered a guilty plea to a single count of wire fraud.
Chandler had repeatedly lied and forged documents to dupe his investors, prosecutors noted.
It was his second criminal conviction in the United States, following a 2003 guilty plea to theft in Arizona. After that incident, Chandler was deported, given three years of probation, and ordered to pay $189,550 in restitution.
As part of the sentence for his 2021 conviction, he was ordered to pay restitution of $1.7 million.
In their sentencing arguments in 2021, the prosecutors pointed out that the “defendant claims to have made substantial sums between 2015 and 2018. His spouse also made a considerable sum in 2018.”
However, from 2017 until his extradition, Chandler was hit with lawsuit after lawsuit in B.C.
By that year, the Murrayville House project owed $62 million to various creditors – while the building was worth less than half that amount.
After the condo project went into receivership, it was discovered that some units in the building had a been promised to different buyers or investors two, three, or in one case, four times.
According to the Bowra Group, the receiver that took over the condo project after it was buried under a mass of creditor lawsuits, there were 91 units in the complex. They were sold 149 times.
ALSO IN THIS SERIES: Fraud in B.C.: Who investigates when millions go missing?
READ MORE: IN OUR VIEW: RCMP must be open about their fraud-fighting efforts
Bowra Group reports to the court also looked at expenses of the numbered company that owned Murrayville House, finding that vast sums of cash were withdrawn for reasons having nothing to do with the development, including to buy other potential development properties in the area, and “numerous unidentified withdrawals totalling $2.1 million.”
Between 2015 and 2019, Chandler also had interests in multiple other development properties around Langley, and in a golf course near Merritt – he was sued for allegedly not paying for equipment for the course, including leased lawn mowers and trucks.
Lawsuits against Chandler and his companies ranged from claims for a few thousand dollars for work by contractors, to six- and seven-figure sums. Many lawsuits were launched by firms holding mortgages, but there were also claims by equipment rental firms, builders, and even a Florida-based jet rental company which launched a lawsuit for more than $500,000.
Some of those claims were settled, but many remained outstanding when Chandler was extradited.
A local realtor described what it was like to do business with Chandler during his mid-2000s foray into B.C. real estate, when Chandler was involved with projects to build condo towers in Vancouver and Richmond, following his Arizona conviction and deportation from the U.S.
The realtor told the Langley
Advance Times that Chandler tried to buy a house in Langley in 2007. The home was an estate with a 6,000-square-foot home in the Campbell Valley area near 200th Street, and the asking price was $2 million.
The realtor who handled the sale, who asked that his name not be used, recalled meeting Chandler for the first time.
“It was very, very bizarre,” he said of the experience.
Chandler contacted the realtors from California and expressed an interest in seeing the home. Chandler’s then-girlfriend was from the Langley area and wanted a local house, the realtor recalled.
He described Chandler as “very suave, wearing a suit, driving a BMW” when he arrived to check out the house. It wasn’t the typical way people buying property in Langley dressed, even if they could afford $2 million homes, said the realtor.
Chandler talked a lot about how much money there was to be made in the California real estate market. He made an offer on the house that was accepted by the seller.
That’s when things started to go wrong.
“It took probably a month to get the deposit from him,” the realtor recalled.
There were excuses and delays, and the process went on so long that Chandler was technically in breach of the sale contract.
Eventually, the deposit came in by wire transfer.
Before the process could be completed, the realtor needed Chandler’s signature on another document, and he called Chandler to get it dealt with.
“He said he was in the Bellagio in Las Vegas, in the penthouse suite,” the realtor recalled.
He had to fax the form to the hotel and casino, and staff there faxed it back with Chandler’s signature.
After all that, Chandler never wound up taking possession of the home.
Chandler assigned the sale to a numbered American company that took ownership of the home.
“Then he disappeared,” said the realtor.
Chandler hadn’t disappeared from the real estate world, just from Canada.
In the fall of 2007, he briefly leased a large, furnished house in Vancouver, arranged for renovations, and – according to court records – walked away from it, leaving the renovations half-finished and contractors, including his brother, not fully paid. His brother declined to comment when contacted by the Langley Advance Times.
Furniture from the house, including a piano, had not been located by the time a judge ruled on a related lawsuit in 2013.
Chandler was in California, where from 2009 to 2011 he would undertake the fraudulent actions that would cost a group of investors $1.7 million and eventually land him in prison for six years.
Chandler’s pattern over the past two decades remained the same.
He became involved in a real estate development, whether in Arizona, Vancouver, Los Angeles, or Langley.
The projects often led to lawsuits, as in Vancouver, Langley, and Merritt. Eventually, Chandler moved on, going to the other side of the border.
The difference is that in the United States, Chandler has twice been convicted of criminal offences.
In Canada, he’s been investigated once, but never charged nor convicted of a crime.
As angry would-be buyers and creditors sued Chandler in B.C. in the 2010s, the Langley RCMP began an investigation, which was later passed along to the Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) unit that handles everything from large frauds to terrorism investigations.
However, by the time Chandler was extradited back to the States, RCMP confirmed that the local investigation was no longer active.
Including time served, Chandler’s prison sentence in the United States is expected to end in 2025.
Next week: A Langley man who took over a family roadbuilding business went bankrupt amid an investigation of millions of dollars of fraudulent loans. It would take more than six years before he was charged. In the meantime, court records and witness statements show that millions of dollars more passed through his hands. The courts have never said who wound up with the cash – and the former builder simply said to “follow the money.”