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Landlord, target of DTES 'wanted' campaign, turns himself in

George Wolsey, a former Downtown Eastside hotel owner who was targeted by an unofficial "wanted" poster campaign, has turned himself in.

Wolsey failed to appear in court on Sept. 3 to deal with court orders that he pay just over $18,000 to a group of 10 disgruntled former tenants.

The court-ordered payments were meant to address various harms endured by the tenants when they lived in Wolsey's Wonder Rooms single room occupancy hotel (SRO) on Cordova Street.

Wolsey, who had seven days to respond after a B.C. court issued warrants for his arrest on Sept. 3, reportedly turned himself in to the B.C. Provincial Court on Sept. 9. He is now scheduled to appear in court again on Oct. 21.

According to a statement released by Pivot Legal, the legal advocacy organization that has worked with the aggrieved tenants now for five years (and which publicly launched their unofficial wanted poster campaign on Dec. 4) Wolsey's former tenants "who endured rampant infestations, serious risks to health and safety and unliveable conditions, were awarded damages by the Residential Tenancy Branch this spring.

"Throughout the dispute process, Wolsey has failed to appear at court dates, has refused service of documents, and has made no effort to pay the outstanding debts."

Calling Wolsey's decision to turn himself in a "huge victory for these 10 individuals," Pivot lawyer D.J. Larkin said that her group "will keep moving forward with the process of getting our clients the money they are owed as a result of the conditions they endured while living in his buildings."

Wolsey, she noted, had been named in a similar warrant in 2012 and had failed to appear, with no arrest or other legal consequences. The matter that prompted the 2012 warrant, she said, is still unresolved.

Wolsey has been a controversial figure in the DTES for years, accused of failing to maintain minimal standards in his two SRO hotels in the neighborhood while allegedly illicitly pressuring tenants to fill methadone prescriptions at his nearby pharmacy.

He has sold the two SROs he owned in the DTES, reportedly for nearly $4 million, and the BC College of Pharmacists told the Tyee on Sept. 5 that he has not been licensed to practice in the province since 2010.

Tom Sandborn covers health policy and labour news for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips here.

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