Dale Carruthers-London Free Press
A London woman whose home was destroyed by a suspicious fire days after she was charged in an alleged gambling ring linked to the Hells Angels is suing her insurance company for more than $3.3 million.
But the insurer says she violated her policy because the house at 203 Commissioners Rd. E. was used to launder assets from the proceeds of crime, store illegal guns and facilitate an illegal gambling operation.
Habiba Kajan, 44, launched a lawsuit against Heartland Farm Mutual, alleging the company owes her $2 million for her home and contents, $1 million for punitive and aggravated damages, $250,000 for mental distress and $100,000 for living accommodations, according to the statement of claim.
Kajan’s home was gutted by a fire on Dec. 19, 2019, less than two weeks after she was arrested as part of Operation Hobart, an investigation into an alleged multimillion-dollar gambling ring that police contend was run by members of the Hells Angels and an alleged Toronto crime family. Investigators ruled the fire suspicious but haven’t made any arrests in the case.
Kajan and alleged Hells Angels member Robert Barletta, 50, were jointly charged with six offences including possession of a loaded handgun and possession of property obtained by crime after police raided the Commissioners Road home on Dec. 12, 2019. Kajan was additionally charged with book-making and participating in a criminal organization.
Kajan, whose charges remain before the courts, alleges Heartland breached its duty by not promptly paying her claim, acted in an unreasonable manner and failed to carry out a proper investigation.
“As a result of the conduct . . . the plaintiff has suffered stress, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional and mental distress and has been put to considerable personal expense,” the eight-page lawsuit says.
In a statement of defence, Heartland denies Kajan’s allegations and contends she refused to co-operate with the company’s investigation by refusing to give approval to access a police report, not providing requested documentation and refusing to give an interview under oath.
“As a result of the plaintiff’s non-co-operation, Heartland’s investigation of whether the claim is payable has virtually stopped,” the 15-page statement of defence alleges.
“Heartland further alleges that the investigative trail has now run cold which will forever prejudice the ability . . . to complete the investigation of whether the claim is payable.”
Statements of claim, and responses filed in defence, include allegations not tested in court.
Heartland alleges that Kajan violated her policy by not disclosing her links to the Hells Angels and involvement in the gambling operation, not disclosing the home was bought using the proceeds of crime and was used to store illegal weapons.
Kajan also misrepresented herself as the sole owner of the home and failed to disclose that other persons had an interest in the property, the statement of defence alleges.
Heartland called Kajan’s claimed value to replace her home “excessive and exaggerated” and alleges she didn’t report the damage to her mortgage lender or replace the $742,400 worth of contents for which she’s seeking reimbursement.
The insurer further denies that Kajan is entitled to the living expenses she claimed, noting she’s staying with family while under strict bail conditions.
“I don’t think much of that statement of defence,” Kajan’s lawyer, Paul Ledroit, said when reached for comment Friday.
Property records show Kajan bought the Commissioners Road home in 2016. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice placed a restriction order on property in July, prohibiting its sale.
Police seized more than a dozen homes as part of Operation Hobart, but investigators haven’t provided the addresses of the seized properties.
Sources have linked Kajan to Barletta, a former London strip club owner and founder of the local Hells Angels chapter. Barletta now faces 18 charges connected to Operation Hobart and a related probe into a privacy breach at the Ministry of Transportation.
Surveillance video captured Barletta narrowly surviving an attempt on his life on March 30, when two men fired nearly 20 shots at him outside a home in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood. No arrests have been made in the case.