Lawsuit claims brothel operating in Burnaby condo

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered a Burnaby condo owner to stop using his property for business purposes after neighbours alleged the unit was being used for "prostitution related activities."

In November 2017, strata members at Timberlea Birch Tower C filed a civil suit against Christopher Nino Diopita, the owner of unit 502.

"This community has been trying to deal with this guy for three years," Steve Hamilton, one of the strata‘s lawyers, told CTV News Wednesday.

"There was allegations of drug use and violence and partying and all of that, the court said had to stop."

Complaints about the unit began in August 2015, when residents of the building located at 3771 Bartlett Court, near Lougheed Town Centre, noticed men of all ages and backgrounds frequenting the condo, according to four affidavits written by three residents at the tower.

At the time, Diopita allegedly told the building‘s caretaker his girlfriend was operating a tattoo parlour out of the unit, court documents show. The strata claims Diopita did not stop the commercial activities when asked to.

A year later, the owner of neighbouring unit 501 reported several disturbances, including an incident involving a "hysterical" young woman he allegedly heard telling Diopita, "I can‘t do this anymore. I can‘t do this anymore."

According to court documents, the neighbour also reported hearing conversations about sexual acts, drug use and money.

"He saw women from (unit 502) stumbling in the hallway several times," the documents read. "The women appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

The neighbour also noticed similarities between furniture seen in an online listing for the condo and items seen in online advertisements for escort services in the Lougheed area.

"They were identical. It was the same bedspread, the same bed, the same artwork and so the court was satisfied…You could draw the inference that these young ladies were offering their services in this particular unit," Hamilton said.

In their petition, strata members asked the court to order Diopita to sell the property within 90 days, effectively forcing him out of the building. The suit also asked that he be forced to pay the strata $8,000 in damages.

So far, he has only been ordered to stop using the condo for business purposes. He did not appear in court Wednesday.

According to a 2015 email filed as evidence in the suit, he told the building‘s manager he had moved to Ohio.

While neighbours might be shocked to discover this kind of behaviour in their buildings, Hamilton said it might be more common than many people think.

"In my practice, I‘ve come across it a number of times," the lawyer said. "It‘s fairly common and I think it‘s more common in the downtown core.”

With files from CTV Vancouver‘s St John Alexander and The Canadian Press