British Columbia

Penthouse party accused launches short-lived fundraiser to 'reclaim' rights

Days after being charged with running a makeshift nightclub out of his downtown penthouse, a Vancouver man launched — and quickly abandoned — an online fundraising campaign asking his “fellow Canadians” to help him “reclaim” their property rights.

Mohammad Movassaghi dropped campaign to raise $100,000 for legal fight after getting just $260

Mohammad Movassaghi tries to hide his face with a copy of his release order as he leaves a Vancouver Police Department jail on Sunday. He was released on bail conditions after being charged with violating the Public Health Act. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Days after being charged with running a makeshift nightclub out of his downtown penthouse, a Vancouver man launched — and quickly abandoned — an online fundraising campaign asking his "fellow Canadians" to help him "reclaim" their property rights.

Mohammad Movassaghi's now defunct GoFundMe posting was headlined by a cartoon showing police confronting an unmasked man at his apartment door next to a neon sign that says "Club Super Spreadrz" while an elderly woman stands in the background and a group of revellers party inside.

In the accompanying fundraising pitch, the 42-year-old complained that he lost $15,000 in cash and liquor, faced a fine of up to $25,000 and jail time, and that the "powers that be have also engaged in a smear campaign" that has affected his ability to make a living.

Movassaghi had a goal of $100,000 before taking the fundraiser down. He reached $260 before suspending his campaign.

This cartoon was attached to a GoFundMe fundraiser launched by Mohammad Movassaghi, who is accused of running a makeshift nightclub out of his penthouse apartment. He has since closed the fundraiser. (Geoff Coates/Vancouver Is Awesome, via GoFundMe)

'Unusually large' number of cheeseburgers

Movassaghi, who was released on his own recognizance on Sunday, is charged with two counts of violating the orders of B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry under the Public Health Act. His next court appearance is Feb. 22.

In statements to other media outlets, Movassaghi's lawyer has maintained his innocence.

Police arrested the former financial planner early Sunday after obtaining a search warrant to enter his penthouse apartment in order to seize liquor, cash, credit card machines and contact-tracing information.

According to the court documents sworn to get the search warrant, police began receiving complaints about parties in Movassaghi's apartment weeks ago.

One woman who was invited to a party said she left the premises "appalled" after allegedly seeing a stripper pole with exotic dancers, mood lights, bartenders, a DJ and between 50 and 100 maskless patrons.

On the weekend of Movassaghi's arrest, police responded to complaints in the early hours of both Saturday and Sunday mornings.

According to the search warrant information, police allegedly observed a delivery driver show up with 100 McDonald's cheeseburgers — an amount they deemed "unusually large."

The court documents also claimed that partygoers were asked to remove their shoes on arrival and that officers could hear people trying to be quiet when they knocked on the door.

The name of Movassaghi's alleged after-hours club was Granny's — and the GoFundMe campaign promised a "custom Granny's T-shirt to you for minimum $100 contributions."

'Once upon a time ... parties were legal'

Movassaghi has filed a complaint with the Vancouver Police Department, which he accused of damaging his peephole the weekend before he was arrested. 

In the GoFundMe appeal, Movassaghi detailed his arrest in his home "because of a party among consenting adults."

"Two of my doors have been dented and one broken," the posting said.

"Once upon a time before November 2020, parties were legal."

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued province-wide restrictions in November suspending events and social gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

On Nov. 19, Henry issued a province-wide order suspending all events and social gatherings to reduce COVID-19 transmission related to social interactions and travel. She extended the original order on Friday.

The search warrant cited Henry's order.

"I believe that this section directly applies to the situation in questions," wrote Const. Regie Gnanaseelan, the officer who swore the information to obtain the warrant.

"The guests in attendance at this party are there for a social event and not for any household activity."

'Straight from the constitution' — not

In his GoFundMe post, Movassaghi mistakenly cited what he claimed were property rights "straight from the constitution."

He pointed to what he claimed was Section 9 and a passage that was, in fact, excluded from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it was signed into law in 1982. 

The passage quoted was part of the proposed Charter of Rights in 1980 and would have guaranteed the use and enjoyment of property "except in accordance with law and for reasonable compensation." 

But the provinces objected and the phrase was ultimately dropped in favour of "the right to life, liberty and security of the person."

Movassaghi's plea stated that he has staff to pay and faces costly legal bills.

"I ask for your help to defend our right to enjoy our private property rights in the hopes of setting a precedent for my fellow Canadians," the posting said.

"I believe what happens in the privacy of our own homes should remain as such."

GoFundMe Canadian spokesperson Caitlin Stanley confirmed that Movassaghi had removed the fundraiser.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.

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