N.S. mass shooter had a history of financial 'misdealing,' according to new documents

·9 min read
A Halifax regional police investigator is seen in a suite above the Atlantic Denture Clinic April 20, 2020 in Dartmouth, N.S. A financial review done after the mass shooting said that between  2012 and 2019 the gunman reported an average annual income of $39,916 from his business, the Atlantic Denture Clinic.   (Tim Krochak/Getty Images - image credit)
A Halifax regional police investigator is seen in a suite above the Atlantic Denture Clinic April 20, 2020 in Dartmouth, N.S. A financial review done after the mass shooting said that between 2012 and 2019 the gunman reported an average annual income of $39,916 from his business, the Atlantic Denture Clinic. (Tim Krochak/Getty Images - image credit)

The financial history of the gunman who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia in 2020 is dotted with red flags, but few were passed on or picked up by authorities until after his rampage, according to new documents tabled as part of the inquiry looking into the tragedy.

The latest foundational document from the Mass Casualty Commission looks at Gabriel Wortman's suspicious banking activity, improper billing practices and an eventually aborted plan to defraud a federal immigration program.

"The evidence described below suggests the perpetrator amassed money and other assets through a number of illegitimate or suspicious means," notes the commission.

"While there are no definitive answers about the sources of all his income, there is a clear pattern of misdealing."

Living beyond reported income 

As part of its investigation into the shooting, the RCMP commissioned a report from federal financial investigators to review the gunman's finances and those of his common-law spouse Lisa Banfield.

The financial review report said that between 2012 and 2019 the gunman reported an average annual income of $39,916 from his business, the Atlantic Denture Clinic. The commission's report said that worked out to $29,036 in disposable income.

But the Department of Community Services said the gunman's clinic received $434,406 between 2015 to 2020 in provincial funds to deliver services to clients receiving Employment Support and Income Assistance, and those in the Disability Support Program.

"The perpetrator obviously underreported his income," said commission lawyer Ronke Akinyemi on Tuesday.

The review noted that in addition to his salary an additional $232,907 was deposited in his personal accounts and another $96,753 was dropped into the joint account he held with Banfield during that period.

Dwayne King, the commission's lead financial investigator, said the gunman's spending habits and lifestyle exceeded his reported income.

For example, from December 2017 to May 2020 the perpetrator spent nearly $20,000 on PayPal and just over $23,000 on the GCSurplus site. — about 87 per cent of his reported disposable income.

King also noted a mismatch in the amount Banfield was spending compared with her declared annual average salary of $15,288.

In an interview with the commission, Banfield said the gunman "wasn't claiming what he actually made" from his denture clinic. She described how she would collect cash from patients and, at the end of the day, would take it to the residence the couple shared above the clinic.

Banfield said she would also cash cheques patients made out to the gunman and give the money to him. She said the gunman told patients to make cheques out to him versus the clinic.

According to the report the couple filed their taxes as "single," despite living together for 19 years.

Banfield told a commission lawyer she didn't know why that was the case. The tax returns were prepared by a bookkeeper and not an accountant. The former is not obliged to report to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan
The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

The commission said there is also evidence to suggest the gunman was claiming personal purchases on his CIBC Visa card as business-related expenses.

The Canada Revenue Agency wouldn't say whether the federal agency was aware of the gunman's suspicious filings.

"In order to ensure the integrity of our work and to respect the confidentiality provisions of the acts we administer, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does not comment on investigations that it may or may not have undertaken," said spokesperson Hannah Wardell in an email to CBC News.

Investigation turns up improper billing 

In 2005 the Denturist Licensing Board of Nova Scotia launched an investigation into the perpetrator for improper billing and to follow up on allegations he was aggressive with patients.

The board's records show the gunman had a practice of billing the insurance provider the full amount of the fee but only charging the patient the portion that was covered by their insurance, resulting in a discount for the patient. Two insurance companies told the board they felt the practice could be seen as fraudulent.

The gunman said he didn't realize the practice was wrong and signed a settlement agreement in 2007 with the board.

Cash found on property 

When police combed the burned-out grounds of the gunman's cottage following the mass shooting they found a metal container buried underground. In it: eight packages of cash totalling $705,000.

Banfield said she believed some of that money came from the estate of his friend, Tom Evans.

Evans's will did not go through probate and there are no records available with respect to the value or content of his estate.

While the gunman said the New Brunswick lawyer had no assets of any real value, the commission said a number of witnesses later told the RCMP that he benefited financially from being the sole beneficiary of Evans's estate.

The gunman had a history of hiding money around his properties, Banfield said, and that it was "normal" for him to have large bundles of cash.

Mass Casualty Commission
Mass Casualty Commission
Mass Casualty Commission
Mass Casualty Commission

As previously reported,  the perpetrator withdrew $475,000 from an account at CIBC in March of 2020.

Banfield said he buried that money in a duffle bag at the cottage.

A senior manager for corporate security at CIBC said the request was unusual and he was concerned but that the money was "clean" meaning it raised no red flags.

"How he brought it in and obviously no flags, nothing was abnormal, no flags came up, nothing was triggered" Joe Morgado told the commission in an interview.

He said other clients, like the gunman, were concerned the start of the pandemic would bring on the collapse of banks.

Suspicious deposits triggered 2010 report

After the mass casualty, Canada's financial intelligence agency passed on information to RCMP regarding suspicious transactions, but FINTRAC had the gunman on its radar back in 2010, according to the documents.

In August of 2010, the gunman deposited $70,000 cash into a TD Bank account held in the name of one of his companies, Northumberland Investments Ltd. About two weeks later, he deposited another $130,000 in cash into the same account before withdrawing the $200,000 via a bank draft payable to himself.

The cash deposits triggered TD to send a suspicious transaction report to FINTRAC. Banks are required to report suspicious transactions "if there are reasonable grounds" to suspect  money laundering or terrorist financing.

The Mass Casualty Commission said it's unclear where the $200,000 bundle of cash came from. The commission said it contacted TD Bank, Scotiabank and CIBC — all institutions the gunman dealt with — for any clues but the banks said those records fall outside of their record-keeping timelines.

TD's suspicious transaction report also mentioned a $154,000 deposit — around the same time as the $200,000 cash deposits — into the Northumberland account from a trust account of the law office of Alan G.D. Irvine. The account also received a credit of $78,000 from the trust account.

"FINTRAC did not appear to inform local law enforcement of this report or taken any other action," wrote the commission.

CBC
CBC

Because Canada's anti-money laundering and terrorist financing law has strict rules around sensitive information, FINTRAC said it "cannot comment on any decision to refer or not refer a [suspicious transaction report] to law enforcement."

After the shooting, PayPal Canada Co. and TD Bank filed suspicious transaction reports to FINTRAC detailing credit card payments and purchases and cash deposits.

In its explanation, PayPal said it identified an account linked to the gunman "that is believed to have been used to make purchases for items utilized in facilitation of domestic terrorist activities."

On April 22, 2020 —  days after the rampage came to an end —  FINTRAC forwarded the suspicious transaction report to the RCMP saying that it has "reasonable grounds to suspect" the information is "relevant to an investigation or prosecution of a money laundering offence."

On May 1, 2020, FINTRAC said it sent more information onto the Mounties from PayPal and TD about the gunman buying police items including a centre console for a 2013 Ford Taurus, a ram for the front bumper of a Taurus sedan, siren lights, a dashcam, a thin blue line vinyl decal and a gun rack.

The gunman dressed as an RCMP officer and drove a replica police cruiser as he murdered 22 people on April 18 and 19, 2020.

Plans to defraud immigration program 

The documents released Tuesday also detail how the gunman had begun to sketch out how he could defraud the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program.

The federal program, launched in  2017, is meant to fill gaps in local labour markets by allowing  approved businesses to sponsor immigrants with the  understanding that they would be hired for a one-year period. Those who immigrate under the program are granted permanent residency within six months.

Emails between the gunman and friend Kevin von Bargen, a lawyer in Ontario, discuss having immigrants pay a fee and year's salary to Atlantic Denture and in return the clinic would make them an "employee" for a year. The applicant wouldn't have to actually work at the clinic and the plan was to pay the fake employee their own money back every two weeks to look like a salary.

The clinic was approved under the program in 2018 and the commission said emails suggest they were actively recruiting.

WATCH | Shooter's financial history dotted with red flags: 

But more research put the plan on hold.

"The whole structure falls off the rails if it attracts CRA [Canada Revenue Agency] scrutiny," wrote von Bargen.

After the gunman googled "Inside the illegal immigration scheme targeting Atlantic Canada" the two men decided to abandon the scheme.

"Abort is my consensus," wrote the gunman in an email.

The gunman's financial misconduct appears to pre-date his time as a denturist.

One of the gunman's uncles, Glynn Wortman, told police after the mass casualty that his nephew had a history of smuggling cigarettes into Canada when he was younger. He said the gunman was once caught at the border so then changed to bringing them over by boat.

Wortman said his nephew "sold enough illegal cigarettes that it put him through ... university"

One of his former neighbours in Portapique, George Forbes, said the gunman used to brag to him about his history selling illegal cigarettes.

The Mass Casualty Commission said understanding the gunman's finances helps their work examining the causes and circumstances that gave rise to the mass shooting.

The commission said it ultimately decided not to pursue a full forensic accounting analysis.

WATCH | Spouse of N.S. mass shooter testifies about guns, violence: 

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