CRIME

A REVERSE MIDAS TOUCH

Everything Gary Troll touches turns a profit. His son wasn’t quite so lucky.

NANCY MACDONALD April 3 2006
CRIME

A REVERSE MIDAS TOUCH

Everything Gary Troll touches turns a profit. His son wasn’t quite so lucky.

NANCY MACDONALD April 3 2006

A REVERSE MIDAS TOUCH

Everything Gary Troll touches turns a profit. His son wasn’t quite so lucky.

CRIME

NANCY MACDONALD

The day after his

big Lotto 6/49 lottery win, for a cool $14 million, Gary Troll was back at work, running his iconic and eponymous waterfront restaurant in tony West Vancouver. Like every other morning, the successful businessman came in well before dawn on Dec. 15,1996, serving coffee and sports gossip to a small crowd of regulars—a mix of lawyers and workmen. Legend has it that everything the hardworking Troll touches turns a profit (the previous year he won a total of $25,000 on two 6/49 tickets). Troll’s Restaurant at Horseshoe Bay— it’s been operating since 1946—isn’t even his only locally famous business. He also owns Pemberton Station, a popular pub in the neighbouring suburb of North Vancouver.

But Troll’s estranged son Jason seems to have been afflicted with a reverse Midas touch. Currently sitting in a Seattle jail cell, the 39-

year-old, who tried to follow in his father’s restaurateur footsteps, awaits his March 30 sentencing for the possession of a listed chemical. In June, he and his wife, Michelle Haney-Troll, were arrested trying to cross the U.S. border with 77 kg of ephedrine, the active ingredient in methamphetamine. (Haney-Troll was not charged.) Though he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, he’ll likely do less time: Troll pleaded guilty to possession, admitting as part of his

plea bargain that he knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, that the ephedrine was likely to be used in the manufacture of illicit drugs.

Jason Troll’s decline and recent arrest, says Kirk Westcott, chef at Pat’s Restaurant on Vancouver’s North Shore, has gripped a tightly knit community of old-school restaurateurs who “all know and like Gary.” Kathy Cleveland, 53, owner of Coco Loco, landed her first job with Gary Troll’s father, Joe, at 15She recalls that, as a young man, Jason Troll was

“outstanding-looking” and “debonair.” But, she says, she thinks the younger Troll became trapped in a high-octane world he couldn’t escape. As Michel Segur, owner of West Vancouver’s Chez Michel restaurant, says, “The problem with this business is it forces us to pretend to be somebody else—we must look richer, drink more, have more. Most of it is show but you get stuck in it. In the alcohol, the drugs.”

Alternately described as “engaging” and “hyperactive” in media reports, Jason Troll tried his hand in the restaurant business. But he fell from the high wire of Vancouver cuisine, and was ousted from West Vancouver’s Ciao Mein. Other ventures also seemed to go sour. He had a short-lived tenure at Crankpots Ceramic Studio, and subsequently was involved in legal wranglings with Vancouver’s

Lazy Bay Café & Bakery in 2002 and Burnaby’s Playdium the following year—the latter alleging that he walked off with their cash and property, to the tune of $227,000.

At that point, Troll began a new career—as a fitness trainer to his bodybuilding wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Together, between 2002 and 2005, the couple attended a

string of competitions, including an Ironman and U.S. national figure championship. On the day of his arrest, Jason Troll told border officials that he was accompanying his wife on a photo shoot. In his sworn affidavit, U.S. customs agent Jeffrey Starrett stated that he found Troll’s behaviour “overly friendly.” He then decided to search the couple’s 2005Jeep

Liberty—and found the ephedrine packages among Haney-Troll’s clothing.

Gary Troll hasn’t seen Jason in 10 years. The two had been very close; in an interview with Maclean’s, Troll described his son as “an amazing athlete,” who “managed three large companies before he was 34 years old.” By the time life in the fast lane caught up to his son, Gary Troll was working night and day. But he knew in the back of his mind, he now says, that “something was wrong” with Jason. As for their subsequent split, Troll will only say that Jason was “causing a financial strain on family and friends and the business. When he started going down that road—I couldn’t tolerate that. I just couldn’t tolerate his behaviour.” He now describes his son’s descent as “a nightmare, that you always want to go away—but is always there.”

Jason has three children from a previous marriage. Last week, just back from Disneyland with the youngest, Gary Troll says he’s got “the three nicest grandkids in the world,” whom he proudly supports. “I can help those kids,” he says, “but I can’t help my son.” When apprehended at the border, Jason admitted to U.S. agents that he’d made a deal to bring ephedrine into the U.S., but that his American-born wife, who describes Jason as her “soulmate” on her website, knew nothing of the plan. “I did it myself,” Troll told the authorities. “We needed the money.” M