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Man owns both pot buildings, police say


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Man owns both pot buildings, police say

Brewery, former shopping mall had been rented out

OPP will be `looking into that coincidence'



BARRIE—Two buildings where massive indoor marijuana grow operations were discovered during raids last weekend are owned by real estate magnate Vince De Rosa, police confirmed yesterday.

"He owns both spots and there's marijuana growing at both spots. We'll definitely be looking into that coincidence," Staff Sergeant Rick Barnum of the Ontario Provincial Police said yesterday.

De Rosa's Fercan Developments, a Toronto-based real estate management company, owns the landmark former Molson brewery where police seized 30,000 plants from a vast hydroponic growing operation thought to be the largest uncovered in North America.

Police executed a second search warrant Saturday at another well-known location for cottage commuters, a one-time shopping mall complex once anchored by Fuda's supermarket, where they seized 3,000 more hydroponic pot plants.

The building, at 2921 Highway 11, in Oro-Medonte Township, is owned by 1071118 Ontario Ltd., land registry records indicate.

Corporate company records show that 1071118 Ontario Ltd. is another of De Rosa's companies.

"We'll definitely be looking to speak to Mr. De Rosa and find out why it would happen; that's pretty logical," Barnum said.

There are about a half-dozen businesses in Oro Centre complex, including a Canada Post office and a bailiff's office.

Fercan Developments owns a number of properties across southern Ontario, including Hamilton's City Centre.

De Rosa has not returned calls from the Star.

But Fercan executive Italo Ferrari has repeatedly denied knowing anything about the marijuana operation and has said they're landlords to many properties.

"We don't know who comes and who goes," he said.

The high-tech marijuana factory inside the brewery escaped attention for more than a year, police said, despite being next to Highway 400.

According to Barrie's chief building official, Gord Allison, no building permit applications were made by Fercan after purchasing the building for $8 million in 2001, even though it housed a number of businesses along with the marijuana grow operation.

"The way that Molson's had it set up, the building was already divided into areas big enough to accommodate different businesses," said Allison.

With no building permit application, "there was no reason for us to conduct inspections," he said.

The Barrie fire department inspected the building after Fercan purchased it and found it in good order, said assistant fire chief Cynthia Ross Tustin.

"There was no reason for us to go back in there. It's not like a nursing home, for example, where we make regular inspections. This was a steel and concrete building with a sprinkler system."

Police video footage showed a high-wired tropical jungle of marijuana plants, grown through computer-controlled environments that included the use of giant beer vats as hothouses for germinating seeds.

Yesterday, between 40 and 50 officers continued their investigation inside the Molson plant.

"We're going to be in there for a while," Barnum said.

At the Barrie courthouse yesterday, federal crown attorney Karen Jokinen was granted a retroactive publication ban on Tuesday's hearing for the eight men charged in connection with the raid on the former brewery and released on bail. The search warrants were also sealed.

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