Private investigator Elaine White was convicted of money laundering in an international scheme, while private investigator Cullen Johnson was sentenced to prison for his role in an international fraud scheme.
By: Kevin DonovanInvestigations,Published on Fri Jan 17 2014
Two Canadian private eyes have been jailed in the United States for bilking clients in an international scheme that involved bogus promises of offshore millions.
Cullen Johnson, 65, and Elaine White, 70, were first exposed in a Star investigation five years ago. Both have now pleaded guilty to money laundering. They were sentenced Thursday to five years and six months in federal penitentiary.
They face fraud charges in Ontario, which will be dealt with after their release from U.S. custody.
The investigation by U.S. authorities also snared a popular television anchor whose bank account was used as a conduit for more than $500,000 in funds from the Canadian couple. Juliet Bickford, who, until this week, worked for a Virginia CBS affiliate, pleaded guilty Wednesday to filing a false tax return and has been cooperating with investigators. A fourth person in the scheme, Bickford’s boyfriend, is believed to be hiding out in Greece.
Ten years ago, Johnson and White were flying high in Ontario. He was a former Toronto police detective; she an investigator for a downtown accounting firm.
They formed a partnership in a strange endeavour the Star, in its 2009 investigation, called a “financial striptease.” Their companies were Internal Affairs and Global Solutions, which specialized in “financial asset investigations,” according to a company website.
Johnson and White sought out clients involved in messy legal cases such as an acrimonious divorce. They concocted bogus and stunningly realistic international banking information that would lead one party to believe the other had millions of dollars in assets offshore in places like the Channel Islands or the Cayman Islands. Over a period of time, the detectives would charge increasingly higher fees in return for more “banking information.” Often that information was presented in court as real and it took lawyers and judges years to understand it was false.
One non-divorce case involved a group of school board employees who had unknowingly purchased a winning lottery ticket. Through a series of manoeuvres and false documents, the lottery winners were led to believe that one member of their group had stolen and cashed in the ticket.
Investigators in the U.S. allege at least $1 million in fees were paid to Johnson and White over the life of the scheme. Victims of the scheme lived in Ontario, Alberta, and throughout the U.S.