Former T.O cop and wife falsified investigation reports to courts
Lawyers will tell you that the courts exist to provide justice, not vengeance. The following is a cautionary tale of what can happen when people use the courts to try to obtain vengeance. On the morning of November 29, 2006 former Wentworth North MPP, Eric Cunningham, was in the Superior Court of Justice in Milton awaiting a procedural motion for mediation in a marital dispute that had gone on far too long. Cunningham was divorced from his former spouse, Joan Montgomery. In his mind, all of the relevant issues in dispute after a 20-year marriage were well settled.
Eric was raising their daughter on his own. At 9:50 am, Montgomery’s lawyer, James Edney, a partner in Toronto law firm Blaney McMurtry dropped the legal equivalent of a neutron bomb. Edney served Cunningham with a Criminal Contempt Motion alleging that Cunningham had 38 undisclosed bank accounts with almost $2.4 million stashed in offshore tax havens. Joan Montgomery, through her lawyer James Edney, wanted Cunningham jailed immediately, his passport seized and his bank accounts frozen. Cunningham thought he was having a heart attack. He had no knowledge of any such accounts. He maintained that he was truthful in all of his disclosures. Initially, he thought it was identity theft or at least mistaken identity. But the documents were very clear … Cunningham’s SIN number, his date of birth and his address. The “Montgomery/Blaney” documents were sworn to be true. They certainly resembled real documents, with real account numbers, account balances and transfer numbers. By 10 am, Cunningham’s lawyer, David Sherman had arrived. Sherman, a seasoned marital lawyer suspected the Blaney documents were baseless.
He advised lawyers James Edney and his partner Andrew Heal not to circulate the documents or face legal consequences. Superior Court Justice Kendra Coats declined to jail Cunningham or seize his passport or his bank accounts. Within two hours, Cunningham was meeting with Danielle Beaudoin, an executive with TD Bank in Hamilton. After examining the documents, Ms. Beaudoin dropped her own bombshell … “the Blaney exhibits were fraudulent.” Cunningham called Halton Police and provided them with the documents. He retained the law firm of Ross McBride. Senior partner, Paul Paradis wrote immediately to Blaney’s advising them that their documentation was false and it should be withdrawn. They received no reply.
Cunningham’s next shock occurred when he tried to transfer funds to his daughter to be able to fly her home for Christmas. His two accounts were frozen. Blaney lawyer Andrew Heal had written to TD Bank threatening them. Within two days, David Sherman and TD reopened Cunningham’s modest accounts. But the message to Cunningham was clear, “these people are above the law.” By the end of the first week of December, Cunningham was able to confirm that every bank mentioned in the Criminal contempt documents had no record of any accounts or business with Cunningham, whatsoever. Cunningham’s lawyer David Sherman wrote to Blaneys requiring disclosure of the private investigators responsible for assembling the “information” on his client. They did not cooperate.
On January 3, 2007, in Milton Superior Court of Justice, Mr. Justice Clark ordered full disclosure of the identity of the private eyes.The firm was Internal Affairs in Newmarket, owned by Cullen Johnson, a former Toronto Police officer for 26 years. Cunningham initiated complaints to the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Private Investigators Branch of the Ontario Government. He knew that absent a court order, no third party had any right to get into the bank accounts of a Canadian citizen. Cunningham also knew that any lawyer worth his salt would know that they cannot retain people (investigators) to break the law. Blaney’s had contracted Cullen Johnson, his wife, Elaine White and Internal Affairs to do a “global sweep” on Cunningham’s bank records. Elaine White was a former dental hygienist. She sold wood stoves. She later was self styled “forensic investigator.” Cunningham’s initial complaints to the P.I. Branch head, Jon Herberman, fell on deaf ears. “He totally ignored my concerns about illegal activity by P.I.’s licensed by the Branch,”said Cunningham. Unfortunately, the Branch confirmed Johnson’s license. The “Cunningham Complaint” to the Branch caught the attention of OPP Detective Mark Johnston. Johnston was investigating yet another complaint about private investigators over a lottery dispute.
Johnson & White produced a report that said the three teachers had been cheated and that the fourth (now deceased) had secreted $5.7 million offshore. The entire format of the Internal Affairs Report closely resembled the report done on Eric Cunningham. At this point, the OPP Anti-Rackets Squad moved into action. More complaints followed … as did charges. National Newspaper Award winning Toronto Star journalist Kevin Donovan did a front page exposé on Johnson and White. This led to more complaints. Johnson & White were arraigned on charges in Criminal Court in Newmarket. They were released on their own assurances. But the two immediately fled to the Bahamas.. Within months of leaving Canada, Johnson and White incorporated a Panamanian company. The core of their business was simple. Like the “lottery” file or the “Cunningham” file, they would manufacture and sell bogus information to third parties, engaged in litigation. Simply put, they would do anything and say anything to defame someone on behalf of clients … mostly lawyers. In early 2012, with Canadian police in pursuit Johnson & White, with dubious immigration documents, purchased a condo in Turks & Caicos.
According to documents recently filed in the US Federal Court, Johnson & White and a new partner worked together to perpetuate the same false information scam that they operated in Canada. Johnson & White had made another fatal mistake. Their alleged scams were uncovered by the Untied States Justice Department. Specifically, Special Agent Brian Pelfrey. In August 2012, Cullen Johnson and Elaine White were apprehended in Turks & Caicos. They were jailed immediately. Johnson & White requested political asylum from the United Nations, claiming they would be murdered, if returned to Canada. Their request for asylum was rejected. Instead the former influential Toronto cop and his wife would languish in what a senior U.S. Justice official described as “third world” conditions in the Turks and Caicos jail for 8 months. On April 9, 2013, Johnson and White were extradited to Newport News Virginia where they face wide range of charges including mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Their application for bail has been denied. Johnson is anxious to tell his side of the story. Sources close to the investigation suggest that cooperation by Johnson and White with U.S. authorities might see their sentences reduced to five years.
Failure to cooperate might result in penalties up to fifteen years in U.S. prison. Elaine White turned 70 on April 7. Back in Canada Cunningham is suing Johnson & White and their private investigation firm. Also named in the suit are former spouse Joan Montgomery’s lawyers James Edney and Andrew Heal and the law firm of Blaney McMurtry, who paid the P.I.’s to do the sweep of Cunningham’s assets. Attempts by the Bay Observer to get comment from the law firm has been unsuccessful. It is likely this prolonged legal matter would have ended years ago were it not for the fact that Montgomery’s wealthy father was bankrolling her decade-long odyssey through the courts, involving a string of lawyers who she engaged and who then quit the case or were dismissed. One of Cunningham’s associates described the impact of all of this on Cunningham as “horrific.” Essentially, Montgomery and her father spent almost $2 million to destroy this guy,” said Kathi Karpinski. “The false documents prolonged what should have been a routine marital dispute.” For his part Cunningham exhausted most of his life savings defending himself.
For reasons known only to her, Montgomery and her father, Dr. D.S. Montgomery, have declined to sue Blaney McMurtry or the private investigators. Cunningham is pleased that the Johnson & White business has come to an end. He would not comment on his civil case except to say that the courts need to “condemn collusion between law firms and private investigations firms in the tendering of false documents to the courts.” “The Courts are under enough pressure without having to deal with manufactured and fraudulent evidence,” said Cunningham.