British Columbia

B.C. judge fines man who allegedly lifted $50K worth of mushrooms

A man accused of helping himself to almost $50K worth of fungi from a mushroom warehouse in Langley B.C., has been ordered to pay a fine.

Man ordered to pay more than $36K to offset losses of mushroom warehouse

A civil lawsuit over mushroom theft has ended in a large fine against a man accused of helping himself to pallets of mushrooms and loading them into his van. (Champ's Mushrooms)

A man accused of helping himself to close to $50,000-worth of mushrooms from a Langley B.C., warehouse, has been ordered to pay a fine after he was caught on video allegedly loading flats of stolen fungi into his van.

Champ's Mushrooms Inc. sued Zhi Ping Guo in civil court after discovering stock shortages and reviewing security video that the company said showed him secretly pilfering pallets of fungi worth close to $50,000 over a three-month period.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Harvey ordered Guo to pay $36,417.68 to offset losses of the mushroom warehouse operation which supplies grocery stores like Costco and Safeway for stock stolen in late 2013.

Harvey said video showed the defendant allegedly "moving unescorted about the plaintiff's warehouse, helping himself to pallets of mushrooms."

RCMP investigated the situation and a year later laid a charge, wrote Harvey.

Guo pleaded guilty to a charge of theft over $5,000 in July 2014. He received a conditional discharge and was ordered to repay $7,500, which he paid, according to Harvey's ruling.

But the mushroom company was left feeling shorted, so they sued.

Champ's Mushrooms has won a civil lawsuit to recoup losses after almost $50K worth of fungi was pilfered. (CFIA)

Guo was a Champ's customer long before he was accused of theft and often frequented the warehouse to pick up mushrooms. 

But the week's court ruling said that a Champ's manager became suspicious after noticing inventory shortages and began to investigate.

Security video revealed Guo arrived at the warehouse early and allegedly helped himself to thousands of dollars worth of stock before staff arrived, Justice Harvey wrote.

Guo testified that he began to steal after he was short-changed a promised supply of low-quality "slice-ends" of mushrooms.

So, he began loading his van with various types of mushrooms, then underreporting what he'd taken.

A civil lawsuit about mushroom theft ended up devolving into a dispute over the actual value of the mushrooms. (CBC)

A Champ's manager told court Guo at first admitted the theft and said he was remorseful, but then the dispute heated up.

In the end, the manager wrote demand letters warning Guo that the matter was headed to court.

"I'm coming after everything you own ... I will make your life miserable," wrote manager Tri Quach, in a letter that the judge described as "outrageous" in his April 24 ruling.

The same manager allegedly then warned other mushroom dealers in the Lower Mainland about the situation.

Nightmares

Guo counter-sued for defamation and infliction of emotional harm because of the manager's actions but lost.

The judge said his passing reference to nightmares about the situation did not prove he'd suffered an undue level of mental anguish.

The court case ended up revolving around disputes over just how much the mushrooms taken were worth, with quotes ranging from $12 to $43 per case.

In the end, the judge discounted what Guo had to pay, saying damages were initially overstated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

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