Wei Li, the 49-year-old convicted of lighting his rental property on fire in the fall of 2017, was sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary on Friday in the Supreme Court of B.C. (Facebook/Debbie Beech)

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

The man convicted of torching his rental property in Esquimalt wore a fully packed backpack and wheeled a small pink suitcase into the courtroom on Friday afternoon to find out how long he would be spending in jail.

Wei ‘George’ Li was sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary for one count of arson in B.C. Supreme Court.

Justice Robin Baird was ready to give his reasons for judgment last Friday but agreed to adjourn until this week in order to give Li time to plan with his family. Li lives in Quebec with his estranged wife, who is dealing with a thyroid cancer diagnosis. They co-parent their two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.

RELATED: Esquimalt arsonist sentencing adjourned to allowing family time to plan

When asked if Li had anything final to say to the courts prior to hearing his sentence, he told the judge that he had prepared a two-page statement but was advised to seek counsel from his defence lawyer, Rolfe Horne, before reading it out loud.

After about a 10-minute break, Li stood up to deliver his edited statement, starting out by expressing his confusion with the guilty verdict and then thanking the police, who Li said did a “wonderful job.”

“I have to say I was really impressed by the professionalism, especially [by the fact] they even unlocked the iPhone,” said Li.

During the trial, in an agreed statement of facts, it came to light that in the days leading up to the fire, Li had searched how to transport gasoline in plastic containers and the distance and commute time from the property to the fire department.

In addition to the searches, an unexplained jerrycan with gas in it was found in the basement, which pointed to Li’s guilt, stated the judge, along with the fact that the firefighter who was primarily responsible for extinguishing the fire “reeked of gasoline.”

RELATED: Guilty verdict for man accused of setting fire to his Esquimalt rental property

Li was arrested about 30 minutes after he set the fire. He was arrested at the Victoria International Airport after he sought medical attention for burns on his hands, face and neck.

The courts heard how Li and his tenant Billy Montgomery had a strained relationship that became “extremely volatile” leading up to the day of the fire, on Oct. 3, 2017.

Justice Baird said he believed Li’s motive for setting fire to Montgomery’s personal items in the garage was to intimidate Montgomery or force him off the property “or both.” Baird called the crime “premediated” and said the jury clearly rejected the defence that the fire had started from an electric spark when the lights were turned on.

“What the accused did here was extremely dangerous, not to mention unbelievably stupid,” said Baird.

Baird took into account the fact that prior to this incident, Li had no criminal record and said he had 50 years of previous good character.

In addition to thanking police, Li thanked his lawyer — who called a “true gentleman” and said he didn’t “need a win to know that” — along with the taxpayers.

One person clapped as Li was lead out of the courtroom in handcuffs, leaving his backpack and suitcase behind to be collected by the sheriffs.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Arson

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Eight Township firefighters exposed to COVID-19 now back at work

Online comments suggest the firefighters were not tested for COVID-19 but directed to self-isolate

Aldergrove senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Strong home sales in early March plunged as virus hit

Sales were trending upwards before physical isolation began

LETTER: Amid virus, Langley trail notes move reader

Expressing thanks for a kind gesture in a difficult time

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Abbotsford man who tries to start gas-station fight gets sprayed with gasoline

Suspect returns with knife and throws it at victim, but is quickly arrested by police

Abbotsford family of 5 who was stuck in Vietnam is now back home

Janzen family sends ‘huge and heartfelt’ thank you to everyone who helped

Most Read