A 43-year-old man accused by neighbours of running a brothel out of his Burnaby condo was sentenced in Vancouver provincial court this month for a revenge tire-slashing rampage in the apartment building’s underground parking lot.
In all, Christopher Nino Diopita slashed the tires of 57 vehicles, wreaking more than $30,000 in damage, according to facts presented at an April 22 sentencing hearing.
“Slashing 57 vehicles’ tires is actually arduous work,” said Crown prosecutor Assaf Gal-Or, speaking to the planning and premeditation involved in the act. “That’s a lot of tires to slash.”
Gal-Or told the court Diopita had been driven by “malice and revenge,” after a feud with his neighbours at the Timberlea Birch apartments at 3771 Bartlett Ct. culminated in him being forced to sell his condo after his neighbours took their concerns to court.
Diopita’s beef with his neighbours dates back to 2015, when residents and the building’s caretaker complained to the strata council about foot traffic and disturbances at Diopita’s unit, according to a November 2017 petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
When the property manager approached him about the complaints, Diopita explained his girlfriend was operating a tattoo business, according to the petition.
He was ordered to stop, but the disturbances and foot traffic continued, according to court documents, with the building’s caretaker reportedly seeing unknown women in Diopita’s unit allowing different men into the building “on a frequent basis.”
One neighbour reported numerous disturbances coming from the unit, including what he believed to be sounds of physical violence, “hysterical screaming,” and “men of different ethnicities, different ages, some ... dressed as construction workers and some as businessmen,” all frequenting the apartment.
The strata fined Diopita, and its lawyer, Stephen Hamilton, sent him a letter in July 2017 asking him to stop the activities in his unit, but Diopita did not respond, according to the petition.
The strata then filed its petition, asking for a court order banning Diopita from the property and forcing him to sell the unit.
Diopita did not respond or appear in court, and a Jan. 8, 2018 default judgment by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Justin McEwan ordered him to stop using his condo for commercial or business purposes – including prostitution-related activities – and to stop the yelling, screaming and loud music.
Diopita was also ordered to pay the strata’s court costs, but he wasn’t banned from the property or ordered to sell the apartment.
Hamilton, who specializes in strata property law, said the court usually gives owners like Diopita an opportunity to correct their behaviour before imposing such measures.
The court order and a flurry of media attention seemed to do the trick – for a time.
“So far so good,” Hamilton told the NOW in 2018, a few weeks after McEwan made the order.
But less than a month later, on Feb. 25, 2018, Timberlea Birch’s caretaker, Wendy MacDonald, came upon Diopita and another man in the underground parking lot at 3:30 a.m., according to information presented at the sentencing hearing this month.
Diopita seemed surprised and said he was showing his friend where to park, but MacDonald said she didn’t see either of the men “in or near any operating vehicle,” prosecutor Gal-Or said.
And security cameras had captured Diopita and the other man in the lobby wearing gloves and walking toward the elevator during the wee hours of the morning.
The video showed Diopita carrying “an object resembling a knife” and a “pink-handled object” protruding from the pocket of his hoodie.
A search of his apartment later turned up a pink-handled hammer and a knife (hidden in his freezer) that appeared to have been hammered by a blunt object.
An expert analysis concluded the knife had been responsible for the punctures in Diopita’s neighbours’ tires.
Gal-Or noted most of the 57 vehicles had had all four tires slashed.
Diopita was eventually charged with mischief over $5,000 and pleaded guilty in January after two-and-a-half years of on-again-off again court proceedings.
Gal-Or called for a conditional sentence order for Diopita with a one-year period of probation, but Diopita’s lawyer, Jonathan Waddington, argued for a conditional discharge, which would have meant his client could avoid a criminal record.
Waddington said Diopita had been drunk during the tire-slashing attack and regrets the incident.
“He acted in a way that is out of his character,” Waddington told the court. “He’s never done anything like this before or since.”
When Diopita was given a chance to address the court, he said he was sorry, but he also used the opportunity to contradict Gal-Or’s assessment of his motive in the case.
“In regards to revenge, I was never forced to sell my condominium,” he said. “I sold it because the market was twice the price, so it was a good opportunity for me to leave.”
But B.C. provincial court Judge Joseph Galati didn’t buy that the tire-slashing spree was unrelated to his feud with his neighbours and the B.C. Supreme Court action.
“I am satisfied that Mr. Diopita was motivated by revenge,” Galati said.
He handed Diopita a suspended sentence with a one-year period of probation, which includes a ban on contacting his former neighbours or going within 250 metres of his old apartment building.
“Mr. Diopita will be stigmatized with a criminal record, but, in my view, that is proportional to his degree of moral blameworthiness in all of the circumstances of this case,” Galati said.
Diopita was also fined $5,000.
Gal-Or had asked Galati to impose a $16,863.02 restitution order to pay back the 19 people named as victims in the case.
Gal-Or explained that going to trial with all 57 counts of mischief would have been “almost overwhelming,” so the Crown had proceeded with only 19.
Galati said he could “certainly appreciate that” but concluded choosing 19 people out of 57 victims was “somewhat arbitrary” and it would be unfair to award them restitution and not the others, so he didn't award any restitution, imposing the fine instead.
‘Going away gift’
Timberlea Birch caretaker Wendy MacDonald told the NOW it felt like Diopita was getting off “basically scot-free.”
She said her tires had been spared from Diopita's knife-and-hammer treatment because she had been out with friends that night.
It was when she arrived back home at 3:30 a.m. that she had come upon Diopita in the underground parking lot, she said.
Diopita had sold his unit by that time and was preparing to move out, according to MacDonald.
She called the tire slashings his “going away gift” to his neighbours.
She said security video of that night showed Diopita flashing a crude hand gesture at the security camera.
“He was like, ‘F*** you people,’” she said.
MacDonald said Timberlea residents have long wondered whether they’d get any money back for the new tires they had to buy.
She was baffled by the Crown’s move to go ahead with only 19 complainants and the judge’s subsequent decision not to award any restitution.
And she wasn’t totally comforted by Gal-Or’s assurances that he had “no doubt” ICBC would be coming after Diopita next.
“I’d be pissed,” she told the NOW. “I know a few people who had to pay $2,000 out of pocket. Most people had to pay their deductible.”