Judge calls defendant "incorrigible leech" in B.C. real estate case

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A recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling began with some blunt words.

“The plaintiff is a wealthy, elderly widow,” Justice Robert Crawford wrote. “The defendant is an incorrigible leech who for the better part of 2002-2010, save for a year in jail in 2003-04, lived off the plaintiff’s wealth.”

The judge’s decision last month concerned the purchase of two properties, the sale of one, and a dispute over the development of the other in the Victoria area.

In 2002, Rozanne Eileen Shuey was a wealthy woman, according to the ruling, thanks to wise investments made by her and her deceased husband.

That year, Shane Gooderham approached her in her driveway and asked if she wanted to sell her home.

“While she was not interested she plainly took a liking to him,” Crawford wrote, “and not long after that he persuaded her to ‘invest in US currency’ and assured her he would double her money.”

Shuey wrote a series of cheques adding up to $16,500, which was never repaid.

In court, Gooderham admitted that he owed this money, but denied that it was linked to currency investments.

The next year, Gooderham was sentenced to two years less a day in jail in connection with a real-estate scam, but maintained his relationship with Shuey.

According to Crawford’s ruling, the defendant told her that he had “found God” and was studying law and business management.

The B.C. Court of Appeal reduced Gooderham’s sentence in 2004, and the decision detailed his previous frauds. However, Shuey was unaware of this history.

After Gooderham got out of jail, he persuaded the widow to buy a property in the District of North Saanich for $585,000.

“Mrs. Shuey’s advice was that Mr. Gooderham had already found a buyer so the property could be ‘flipped’ and after all the costs were paid there would be a sufficient profit if equally shared that he could pay back Mrs. Shuey the monies owed her (some $16,000-$18,000),” Crawford noted. “She said Mr. Gooderham told her he would pay back his mother $50,000 he had apparently obtained when he had forged his mother’s signature on a mortgage on her house.”

Gooderham produced no evidence of any written agreement of a property flip.

The judge’s decision mentioned his claim that an “East Indian planner with the District of North Saanich” had expressed interest, but Gooderham couldn’t recall the man’s name.

The “incorrigible leech” moved into the house on the property, living rent-free until 2009.

In the intervening years, there were bungled attempts to sell some of the lots for a subdivision and at one point, Gooderham tried to do some engineering work. A pipeline was installed incorrectly, resulting in additional engineering expenses.

In 2009, North Saanich council voted down a proposal to rezone the site for 12 condominiums. Gooderham alleged that he and the widow had agreed that any profit on this venture would be shared.

On Gooderham’s advice, Shuey bought another property in 2006 for $450,000. He kept $22,803.77 in rent charged to tenants over the next five years, according to the ruling.

The property was sold in 2011 for $428,477.75. Also in 2006, Shuey turned over ownership of her Buick Park Avenue car to Gooderham.

By November 2009, Shuey had lost faith in her friend, and demanded that he move out of the house she had bought in North Saanich. He refused. She finally sued in January 2011.

The colourfully written decision noted that “much of Mr. Gooderham’s connection with the truth in the matters in contest in this lawsuit was rather tenuous, often unrelated, and ‘elastic’.”

Crawford concluded that Gooderham’s debts to Shuey added up to $140,053.77.

The judge accepted the evidence of real-estate experts that had a North Saanich subdivision been completed, the lots would have sold for $1.2 million.

Because the potential net profit hasn’t been calculated, the judge didn’t issue an award.

He first wanted to see how the parties would settle these accounting issues before determining if Gooderham would receive any money from his counterclaim.

Crawford also ruled that Gooderham had to vacate the house by midnight on New Year’s Eve—more than 10 years after he met Shuey.

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