Cullen Johnson and Elaine White were flown from a Turks and Caicos jail on Wednesday to Newport News, Va.
The couple had been wanted by Canadian authorities after pleading not guilty to charges of fraud in Newmarket, Ont., in 2009.
Johnson and White, who ran the private detective agency Internal Affairs, had been accused of creating false bank documents that played huge roles in high-profile divorce cases.
They fled to the Caribbean around 2010 before their trial.
Since then, Johnson’s website, superstarcorruption.com, has made scurrilous accusations against prominent Canadians including Julian Fantino, now federal minister of international co-operation. Fantino complained to the RCMP about Johnson after the federal ethics commissioner received copies of forged bank documents alleging that Fantino was hiding millions offshore.
Fantino could not be reached for comment.
Last September, Johnson, a former aide to Toronto police chief Bill McCormack, and his wife, a former forensic accountant, were arrested in Turks and Caicos on an international warrant initiated by the Ontario Provincial Police.
They told a court in the city of Providenciales that they were making a petition for political asylum to the UN high commissioner for refugees because they believed they would be murdered if they returned to Canada.
But instead of going back to Canada to face charges, they are now in a U.S. jail after the criminal investigations branch of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service sought their extradition.
Severity of crime cited for extradition
Eric Cunningham, a former Ontario MPP, alleges he was a victim of Johnson and White in his divorce case, and has been in touch with the special agent from the IRS criminal division who was in charge of extraditing the couple.
“Canada did not resist or try to compete with the U.S. extradition order,” said Cunningham. “The severity of the crime trumps, I believe, so I think the Americans have jacks and queens, and we have threes and fours, so that’s why they ended up there.”
The indictment against the couple also includes a co-accused, Woodbridge, Ont., private eye, Theodoros (Terry) Grontis, a Greek-Canadian who is in a Greek jail awaiting extradition.
It alleges that White and Johnson, operating under either Internal Affairs or Occipital, purported to trace money through various banking systems. The indictment claims Grontis provided them with some legitimate information to base their scheme on, and then Johnson and White provided clients with “fraudulent banking information” and “forged” bank records “that appeared to show the transference of funds to and from bank accounts in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and other foreign locations.”
Cunningham says he is admittedly vindictive against the couple for what he claims they did to him. In a lawsuit against Johnson, White and Internal Affairs, he claims Johnson and White fabricated documents alleging he was hiding money around the world from his ex-wife in their divorce case.
“The Johnson-White modus operandi was very well-developed — a lot of work with lawyers, simply in the manufacture of false documents,” said the public affairs consultant. “They would launder up documents for any kind of fee. They got $250,000 out of my ex and her father.”
His lawsuit against the couple has not been heard in court. He is happy they are before the American justice system.
“In the U.S., they’ll do a minimum of five years,” he said. “Here they’d go to Beaver Creek [minimum-security institution], get a new set of golf clubs, join a hot yoga class and get the Order of Canada when they get out.
“If they co-operate in the U.S., it’s five [years behind bars], if they don't, it's 15 years.”
IRS officials told CBC News they could not comment on the case, as did a spokesperson for the assistant U.S. Attorney’s office in Virginia, where Grontis was based.