Nova Scotia gunman used ‘suspicious means’ to obtain cash, investigation finds

Commission Counsel Ronke Akinyemi presents a seminal document on Gabriel Wortman’s financial malfeasance at the Mass Casualty Commission’s investigation into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia on April 18-19 2020, in Halifax on July 19.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

It remains a troubling question that will linger long after the public inquiry into the worst mass shooting in Canadian history: How could the Nova Scotia killer raise such huge sums for someone who declared an annual income of $40,000?

The Mass Casualty Commission confirmed on Tuesday that Gabriel Wortman, the gunman who murdered 22 people in April 2020 while dressed as an RCMP officer, used “illegitimate or suspicious means” to take advantage of a style living far beyond his registered earnings as a denturist. The investigation found he had more than $2 million in assets – an estate currently disputed by the shooter’s wife and the families of his victims.

But the inquest says it found no evidence the shooter was involved in organized crime or was a police informant, despite widely publicized rumors that surfaced after it was learned he withdrew 475,000 $ cash from a Dartmouth Brink establishment shortly before it was ransacked. He said claims that the shooter was trafficking cocaine and marijuana also could not be confirmed.

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The RCMP have always denied that the shooter ever worked as an informant, and in a separate report for the investigation, investigator Dwayne King concluded that the $475,000 withdrawal was not payment for the work of a informant. Mr King said that although confidential informants are usually paid in cash, police would not require the informant to go to a business with CCTV and provide identification, as the shooter had to do to recover the money from Brink’s.

The investigation found Mr Wortman withdrew the cash from the CIBC after becoming paranoid that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause Canadian banks to collapse. A senior CIBC official tried to tell the increasingly agitated and aggressive killer that his money was safer in the bank, according to a new investigative report.

The bank eventually relented, processing the withdrawal through Brink’s because they didn’t want to risk having so much money on their premises in case something went wrong.

The investigation also revealed that Mr. Wortman had used several schemes to enrich himself and had a tendency to hide large sums of money, including $705,000 that was found buried under the bridge of his property in Portapique, Nova Scotia, after its destruction. Inquest investigators acknowledged that many of the sources of this money had no paper trail.

“There will be questions about the perpetrator’s financial background that will remain unanswered,” commission attorney Ronke Akinyemi said, while presenting the commission’s findings.

The killer’s common-law wife, Lisa Banfield, told the inquest that he ‘didn’t claim what he actually earned’ from his denture business, but to his knowledge he had no another source of income. She said she had never seen drugs in their house.

Ms Banfield worked at the shooter’s denture clinic in Dartmouth and was usually the one taking payments from patients. She said “many” of them paid in cash. At the end of the day, she would take the money to Mr. Wortman at their residence above the clinic, she said. If the patients paid by check, she cashed them and brought the money to him.

Ms Banfield was instructed to ask patients to write checks for dentures to her spouse instead of her business, she said.

A report by the Forensic Accounting Management Group, a federal government office that investigates financial crime, found that between 2012 and 2019, the shooter’s average annual income from Atlantic Denture Clinic, which he owned, was $39,916. $. Ms. Banfield’s reported annual income from her work at the clinic was $15,288.

During this period, the report revealed that Mr. Wortman had received an additional $232,900 in his personal accounts and an additional $96,755 in a joint account he shared with Ms. Banfield, although this did not indicate any where the money came from.

The investigation revealed that Ms Banfield and the shooter were spending beyond their declared incomes. For example, Mr. Wortman spent approximately $23,600 to purchase items from the the federal government’s surplus auction website and $19,400 via PayPal between December 2017 and May 2020. During that same period, Ms. Banfield spent about $56,000 on grocery and clothing stores.

From December 2017 to April 2020, Mr. Wortman’s accounts — including one he shared with Ms. Banfield, one for his holding company and one for his denture company — had combined deposits of around $865,600 and combined withdrawals of over $1.16-million. The inquest previously heard how the killer learned to bend the rules from an early age.

“A witness said that growing up the abuser learned from his father that committing a crime is not wrong, getting caught is what is wrong,” Ms Akinyemi said. “The information presented today about the financial transactions of the attacker appears to demonstrate the same attitude.”

In 2010, two cash deposits totaling $200,000 into an account belonging to the drawer were reported to Canada’s financial regulator, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center (FINTRAC). But the investigation indicates that these deposits, although they generated a suspicious transaction report by his bank, were not passed on to local police.

Joe Morgado, senior director of corporate security at CIBC, told the RCMP he was initially concerned about Mr. Wortman’s $475,000 cash withdrawal request because recovering such a large sum could mean that someone is under pressure. or is the victim of a scam.

Mr. Morgado noted that it is unusual for someone to ask for such a sum of money, but he felt that Mr. Wortman was a “middle-aged professional” who “had gradually accumulated a sum of money and now wanted it removed.

The investigation also focused on rumors of the killer’s involvement in drug trafficking. Mr Wortman and Ms Banfield often traveled to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and although Ms Banfield told the inquest she was often alone “all day” on vacation, she saw no evidence of drug trafficking or other criminal activity while traveling. .

A piece of police evidence shared by the investigation, however, indicates his possible involvement in the sale or purchase of large quantities of cannabis. A 2018 Via Rail boarding pass found among Mr Wortman’s personal effects contained handwritten notes that appeared to be a cannabis price list. The back of the train ticket lists cannabis strains and displays price notes such as “5 lbs $5,000”.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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