As he stands outside the house he once called home, Eric Cunningham remembers the life he used to lead: A million dollar home, a successful career as an Ontario MPP – Eric seemed to have it all.
But after 20 years of marriage, he and his wife, Joan Montgomery decided to split. Eric thought the divorce would go smoothly, but he soon learned that wouldn’t be the case.
“They wanted me jailed, wanted my passport seized, wanted my bank accounts frozen,” he says.
In a contempt motion, his wife’s lawyers accused him of having offshore accounts and keeping large amounts of money from her. The documents they provided looked real and the proof seemed credible.
“They alleged that I had secreted 2.4 million dollars Canadian offshore in 18 different tax havens,” he says. “I just didn’t know what kind of game was going on.”
What Eric didn’t know was that Joan’s lawyers had hired two private investigators, Cullen Johnson and Elaine White to look into his assets.
According to allegations, the private eyes would make up bank accounts and fraudulent documents. Instead of conducting real investigations, they would tell their clients exactly what they wanted to hear – all the while collecting money for themselves.
But if true, Eric’s story is not unique. According to Roger Miller, President of the Council of Private Investigators – Atlantic Canada, problems within the industry are not unusual.
“You have investigators that in some cases have no training and in some cases as we’ve seen have no ethics,” he says. “It’s happening every day.”
In 2009, White and Johnson were charged with fraud. But instead of answering to the courts, they jumped on a plane and headed to the Caribbean.
For three years they stayed there while former clients, like Eric Cunningham, were drowning in legal fees and trying to clear their names.
“I’m in the six-hundred thousand dollar range,” he says of dealing with his divorce and fighting the bogus allegations. “For a number of years, I would encounter people in this town that wondered if this was true.”
But finally, last year, Johnson and White were arrested for a minor immigration violation in the Turks and Cacaos. Just last month, after 16×9 aired their original story, Johnson and White were extradited to the U.S. to face fraud charges in the state of Virginia.
For the full story watch 16×9 this Friday at 8 PM – AT/MT, 9 PM – CT, 10 PM – ET/PT.