Charges withdrawn in 3 for 1 Pizza case

Karamjit Gill and Mamta Patel said after the hearing that they received $95,000, only part of what they were owed. The two women say they spent nearly $50,000 in legal fees to win a $160,000 award in civil courts early in 2003…

The Toronto Star
October 25, 2005

Charges withdrawn in 3 for 1 Pizza case
Founder, associate to pay complainants. Franchise buyers said they didn't get shops.
James Daw

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Charges of fraud against the founder of 3 for 1 Pizza & Wings (Canada) Inc. and a business associate have been withdrawn.

Last year, police laid 25 charges of fraud over $5,000, alleging that Reza Solhi and Farzad Bagherzadeh did not supply franchises after advertising them, mainly to new Canadians, and the pair had refused to refund payments they received.

Assistant Crown attorney Susan Lee told the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto yesterday she was proposing to withdraw the charges after negotiating with defence lawyers to have the accused men compensate most of the individuals who had complained to Toronto police.

Individuals, couples and partners named in 20 of the 25 charges have received, or will soon receive, certified cheques totalling about $530,000 for what they paid for pizza franchises from Ontario to British Columbia.

Lee said in court that she was confident the accused would have been committed to trial after preliminary hearings. But, after 15 days before a judge, it was apparent it would have taken many more days to lay out the evidence that filled boxes and was assembled by Det.Theodore Gaskin.

"If we had gone to trial, I am not confident we would have been able to get a conviction," Lee told Justice Bruce Young, who agreed it was appropriate for her to withdraw charges if she thought it was in the public interest.

Paul Stern, lawyer for Solhi, said, "We have always been of the view that no criminal conduct was involved."

Solhi, whose residence in Richmond Hill was used earlier this month to secure a third mortgage of $500,000 at 12 per cent interest, refused comment when approached by a reporter.

Karamjit Gill and Mamta Patel said after the hearing that they received $95,000, only part of what they were owed.

The two women say they spent nearly $50,000 in legal fees to win a $160,000 award in civil courts early in 2003 after they abandoned the rundown store they were supplied in Mississauga on the grounds they had not received the proper disclosure required under franchise law.

Patel said outside the court that she wishes the Crown attorney had not withdrawn the charges so that, had there been a conviction, it might have prevented others from having a similar experience with Solhi.

"Whatever we went through, I don't want anyone else to go through," she said.

Cheryl MacDonald of Oakville said she was happy to get nearly $60,000, which covered all of her personal loss except first and last month's rent for a store she never got, after paying $126,000 with the help of a 75 per cent government-guaranteed loan.

However, she wants to know if Solhi will withdraw a $3.1 million lawsuit he had filed against her and her husband, Craig Johnson, after she complained to police. She says repeated calls and messages to one of Solhi's civil lawyers haven't been returned.

The 3 for 1 Pizza chain once boasted in trade magazines it had nearly 90 stores, but there are now fewer than 16, with no call centre, and several owners are working together to wrest control from Solhi.


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