Surrey marijuana grower loses appeal to keep family home

Trong Vu's family's house seized by federal government after grow-op conviction.

A court order to forfeit this Surrey home to the federal government because it was used as a grow-op has been upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

A court order to forfeit this Surrey home to the federal government because it was used as a grow-op has been upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

A Surrey man convicted of having a marijuana grow operation in his home has lost his bid to keep his family’s house.

Trong Hieu Vu was convicted in January 2009 of three charges, including producing and possessing a controlled substance, as well as electricity theft.

The charges against Vu arose after a search of the home in November 2006, when police found a grow-op in the basement and an electrical cable bypassing the hydro metre.

On Nov. 16, 2006 Vu was sentenced to six months in jail, and pursuant to Canadian law, was ordered to forfeit his house to the federal government.

In a decision posted online Monday (May 6), B.C. Court of Appeal’s Madam Justice Catherine Anne Ryan rejected an appeal by Vu and upheld the seizure of the home.

The fate of the house, located in the 16000 block of 85B Avenue, has been up in the air for several years.

The situation was complicated by the fact that Trong Vu didn’t actually own the home as it was in the name of his former wife, Hanh Thi Vu.

In 2011, Hanh Vu attempted to appeal the forfeiture decision, arguing Trong must have set it up after the couple separated and she left him two months before the search. The B.C. Court of Appeal, however, wouldn’t consider her appeal as only a convicted person can appeal such a forfeiture order. Hanh Vu was never charged in connection to the grow-op.

Trong Vu subsequently filed his own appeal and his hearing was held last June. Trong argued that the judge erred in finding his former wife likely knew about the grow-op, and that the judge didn’t properly consider the impact seizing the home would have on his family.

Justice Ryan, however, agreed with the initial ruling that the various sizes of the marijuana plants indicated the grow-op was likely older than two months and the house and wiring modifications were such that Hanh Vu must have known about it.

Ryan also rejected that the house was the family’s principal residence or that Hanh Vu intended to stay in the house. Ryan noted the couple’s youngest child had not been born when the charges were laid and the older child was with Hanh Vu in Vietnam. There was no indication she planned to return with her children.

Justice Ryan said while there were some children’s playthings and a bit of clothing and food, the Surrey home was in rough shape.

“The police noted that on entry the home was hot and humid with a noticeable odor of marihuana throughout,” Ryan wrote in her decision. “The master bedroom bathroom toilet could not be used. The house from basement to attic had been converted in some way to accommodate the grow operation.”