Magno was the president of Woodbine Building Supply at Danforth Avenue and Woodbine Avenue, a business he co-owned with his two brothers Frank and Carlo and founded by their father, an immigrant. However, in recent years the business suffered as a Home Depot opened nearby. Magno also frequently had disputes with the nearby residents and the store had been fined $11,800 for storing materials in what was classified as a parking area.
Woodbine Building Supply was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve in 2001, in what was one of the biggest fires in Toronto's history. Toronto Fire Services required more than 170 firefighters and 40 vehicles were required to bring the six-alarm blaze under control. The building was fewer than 50 metres from residences in the neighbourhood and more than 50 families had to evacuate their homes on Christmas morning. Residents were temporarily housed in TTC buses, being allowed to return to their homes around 7 a.m. on Christmas morning. Sam Paskalis was severely burned and disfigured, remaining in a coma for several months. Two weeks after the fire, investigators sifting through the rubble found the charred corpse of Anthony "Tony" Jarcevic.
Investigators quickly suspected arson, and suggested that Paskalis and Jarcevic were caught in the conflagration due to their inexperience, when they prematurely ignited gasoline and other flammable substances. The siblings were in the process of growing their business to a new location on Sunrise Avenue, even closer to a Home Depot, having established an outlet there, while the old Woodbine Building Supply was to be demolished and a new condominium development would be built. The Magno brothers had always maintained proper insurance. The perpetrators chose Christmas Eve to start the blaze because they believed there would be fewer witnesses since Italians and Greeks in that area were likely in church for midnight mass.
Paskalis admitted his involvement in the alleged scheme, which saw the Crown drop the second-degree murder charges. He received a seven-year sentence for manslaughter. Paskalis had a history of being a con man, and one of his schemes involved people applying for a loan through a fake company and paying the insurance fees up front but never getting the loan. Paskalis also used stolen credit card numbers, some of them taken from unsuspecting customers at Woodbine, to order merchandise. He was supposed to get C$50,000, part ownership of a nightclub and a cut-rate condo for his role in the scheme. Paskalis had organized the theft of $1 million in store inventory before setting it on fire to cover his tracks.
Magno and Adrian Roks were charged under a rarely used section of the Criminal Code that lets a person face murder charges if they take "flagrant risks with human life in order to achieve some further unlawful purpose." While second-degree murder would have been more difficult to prove than manslaughter, which is the usual for arson, it does carry a more significant penalty. The judge noted that while there was no "intent", she said that they had appreciated the likelihood that a fireman, bystander, or co-conspirator could be killed.
Magno, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, was expected to go on trial in 2008. However, it took until April 2010 for the case to go to court. The trial finally began on May 18, 2011.
In June 2011, a jury found Magno not guilty of second-degree murder but guilty of manslaughter and three counts of arson. On September 22, 2011, Magno was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was released on bail pending appeal of his conviction. He is being defended by Marie Henein.
The proposed plan on the site of the former Woodbine Building store will be a 12-storey condo with 144 units called Carmelina Condominiums. This is considerably larger than the two-storey retail buildings, and higher than the recommended nine storeys in the Official Plan. It is owned by JFC Properties Inc., a company run by the Magno brothers.
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- Torched !
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