July 19, 2022

MCC Day 50 – Perpetrator Financial Misdealings and RCMP Officer Misrememberings

The Mass Casualty Commission took a welcome break from academic discussion panels today to explore evidence about the finances of the killer, and to hear from an RCMP officer who dealt with the complaint from Brenda Forbes, which she described in her evidence last week. The financial misdealings Foundational Document gave a window into the degree of illegal activity in which Gabriel Wortman was engaged, while Cst. Troy Maxwell’s testimony forced us to choose between two starkly different versions of a key event.

One of the early details that emerged about Gabriel Wortman was that he had hidden large quantities of cash on his property, and had seemingly been living well beyond what might be expected of a denturist. He had a nice cottage, a large secondary building seemingly designed for large parties, had multiple vehicles, and expensive hobbies.

The Foundational Document presentation, given by MCC lawyer Ronke Akinyemi (a 2019 Osgood Law School graduate, and Ontario-based lawyer, making, I believe, her first featured appearance at the MCC) provided some guidance as to Wortman’s illegal financial activites. He regularly took cash for denturist work, defrauded insurance companies (to the benefit of his clients), and underreported his income from his legitimate denturist work.

Wortman also gained substantial wealth from the estate of his friend, Tom Evans, a New Brunswick lawyer with whom Wortman likely had a sexual relationship. It appears that the two were also involved in the illegal drug trade. There are witness accounts of this, and the MCC was able to find a receipt that appears to be notes from a cannabis drug deal for five pounds of cannabis.

The key information seems to relate to the $475,000 that Wortman picked up from the Brinks location in Burnside. The source of that money is not known, other than it was previously held by Wortman in the CIBC. There was considerable speculation that Wortman was a confidential police informant, who was being paid out at the end of his service to the RCMP in this large chunk of money, in this unusual manner. Usually, cash (even such quantities) are provided to clients at the branch, where their identification can be verified by the branch manager. Informants would more likely be paid by getting a ticket that they would bring to Brinks and be given the bag of cash to which it relates without further formalities.

The Foundational Document would suggest that it was not the case that Wortman received this money directly from the RCMP. There are communications from internal CIBC officials discussing Wortman’s request for the funds. This seems to put to rest the suggestion that the funds were provided by the RCMP, though certainly they could have been paying Wortman in cash previously and he could have been accumulating the cash in and about his home and other buildings.

The RCMP has denied that Wortman was an informant, but their own internal rules ‘permit’ them to lie to anyone other than a judge in Court about whether someone is an informant. The MCC does not count as a Court in this sense.

The other suggestion for the accumulation of the $705,000 that was found on his property (and the value of his assets, along with his relatively lavish lifestyle) was that Wortman was dealing in drugs. We have evidence that he was smuggling weapons across the US/Canada border, so it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that he would also be smuggling drugs into the country, either directly himself, or by boat, as has been suggested.

The other part of the day was occupied by the testimony of Cst. Troy Maxwell. Cst. Maxwell was the officer who spoke with Brenda Forbes about a complaint Ms. Forbes made. There is a stark contrast between the two versions of events described by the two individuals. Were this to be a criminal trial, the judge would need to make a choice as to what to believe. It may be the case that the MCC Commissioners choose not to make a comment on either person’s credibility, but since it relates to a key issue, they likely will have to make the call.

Ms. Forbes says that she complained to the police about a domestic assault on Lisa Banfield. Cst. Maxwell says the complaint was reckless driving around Portapique by Wortman. A trial judge in this situation might note that while Cst. Maxwell does many investigations (and so this one might not stick out in his mind) a civilian who makes a complaint does so rarely, and so is likely to recall it more vividly. Secondly, Cst. Maxwell stated in his interview with the MCC that there was a decommissioned RCMP vehicle at Wortman’s, but we know that Wortman did not have a decommissioned RCMP car in 2013. Finally, the notes from Cst. Maxwell name all of the witnesses to the assault that Ms. Forbes identified, and note nothing about driving. The notes (which Cst. Maxwell made at the time of the original call) are consistent with Ms. Forbes’ account.

It is relevant, as Ms. Forbes’ account being accurate would mean the police were made aware of Wortman’s abusive behaviour and his ownership of firearms. The police could have followed up on the violence complaint and seen that he had a history of violence. They could have also noted that he did not have a license to possess firearms and followed up on that aspect as well.

I expect that the Commissioners will accept Ms. Forbes’ account, and will find a way to politely suggest that Cst. Maxwell was mistaken about his recall, given the time that has passed, and the number of files that he has had to deal with in the meantime. Certainly, Cst. Maxwell has an incentive to stick to his story, as admitting he failed to follow up on a report of a serious domestic violence complaint would potentially implicate both him and the RCMP more broadly.

The MCC is back tomorrow with two more panel discussions on domestic violence.