The NS shooter’s frequent trips abroad have placed him on a border watch list. They found nothing

A newly released document shows that the Canada Border Services Agency had grown suspicious of Gabriel Wortman before he murdered 22 people in April 2020.

The document is part of a trove of documents released by the Mass Casualty Commission last week as it wrapped up its public hearings into the murders and their aftermath.

Wortman and his longtime partner, Lisa Banfield, were placed on the CBSA Project’s frequent flyer list in 2010 due to their recurring trips to the Caribbean.

According to the affidavit of CBSA Director of Intelligence Eric Levac, the couple were added to the list because of their trip to « Jamaica and/or the Dominican Republic, two drug source countries of concern to the CBSA. » .

Information provided to CMC showed that the RCMP would not have been aware that Wortman was on the lookout for CBSA because the two agencies did not share this information.

Similarly, CBSA officers were unaware of any officer safety bulletins or other red flags police had raised about him.

On March 19, 2010, Wortman was selected for the secondary exam when he flew to Halifax Stanfield International Airport. This was the first time it was reported as part of the Loyalty Project. Nothing was found.

Gabriel Wortman has traveled from his Portapique Beach Road home to the United States on several occasions. The Mass Casualty Commission believes he obtained weapons illegally in the United States, but border searches never found anything. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

A month later, on April 9, 2010, Wortman was again subjected to a secondary examination at the airport, and again nothing was found.

As a result of these two searches, the names of Wortman and Banfield were removed from the frequent flyer list on April 26, 2010. In his affidavit, Levac stated that removing them from this list meant that their names would not appear in any further search for their files.

“Charity work” in the Caribbean

However, the pair were still under further research, including on May 9, 2010. On this occasion, it was Banfield who was selected for further investigation. She told officers that Wortman was her boyfriend and employer and that the couple traveled to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic about six times a year. According to Levac, the search found nothing.

The documents released to MCC included a statement from Michael Klenavic, a CBSA intelligence officer who oversaw Project Frequent Flyer. He participated in one of the secondary examinations for Wortman and Banfield.

“Wortman told me they were in the Caribbean doing some charity work on dentures and that Banfield had helped him,” Klenavic recalled.

« I remember he said it was similar to Medicine Without Borders but for dentures and he helped five or six people on that trip, » he added. Klenavic said he was satisfied with the explanation and allowed them to pass.

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Twenty-two people died on April 18 and 19, 2020. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O’Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (Radio Canada)

Wortman next appeared on CBSA radar in April 2016. This time it was at the Canada-US border crossing in Woodstock, New Brunswick. A US border agent called the Canadians to say he believed Wortman was undervaluing four motorcycles he was importing from the United States.

Wortman had purchased the bikes in Florida, and the agent felt that by undervaluing them, he was trying to avoid or reduce duties and taxes.

When he arrived on the Canadian side of the border, Wortman showed CBSA officers the receipts for the bikes, but he refused to let them see his eBay account to verify the price he had paid.

Although the bikes were not seized, the episode generated a report. This report in turn generated another lookout, this time for suspected smuggling. This watch was issued on July 27, 2016. Four days later, Wortman was subject to another secondary search at the Woodstock crossing due to concerns over auto parts.

Stopped several times at the border

Wortman was traveling with his American friend, Sean Conlogue, in a vehicle with Maine license plates. Officers found two new tires and parts for a motorized scooter. They told Conlogue he had a choice if he wanted to avoid paying duties and taxes: he could either leave the goods at the border crossing or return to the United States.

He and Wortman elected to return to the United States and leave the items there. When they returned to the border, they were searched again, but nothing was found.

Wortman underwent further inspections over the following weeks:

  • August 16, 2016 at the level crossing in St. Stephen, NB.
  • September 4, 2016 at the Woodstock, NB crossing.
  • September 25, 2016 at the Woodstock crossing.
  • November 9, 2016, again in Woodstock.

During the August crossing, Wortman said tires, clothing and alcohol purchased in the United States. The officer found the statements to be accurate.

Of the September 4 crossing, a border services officer noted that « the sheer number of imported bicycles raises some questions, but [Wortman] claims they are personal imports and appear to be good value for the year and condition. »

During his crossing later that same month, Wortman questioned why he was under more scrutiny when he had a Nexus card. Nexus is a joint Canada-US program designed to streamline border crossings for people who have already been screened.

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Lisa Banfield, the common-law wife of Gabriel Wortman, testified at the Mass Casualty Commission inquest earlier this year. The CBSA placed her on a watch list because of her frequent trips to the Caribbean. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

From November 2016 to April 2020, Wortman crossed the Canada-US border 21 times. At one of these crossings, he landed at Halifax Stanfield Airport. The other 20 crossings were made through the Woodstock port of entry in New Brunswick.

It has been the subject of five secondary excavations at the Woodstock crossing; the first in August 2018, the last in August 2019, eight months before the ransacking of April 18 and 19, 2020. Nothing was found in these searches.

Evidence presented to the Mass Casualty Commission showed that Wortman was capable of smuggling three of the weapons he used in his rampage on the other side of the border, after having obtained them in the United States.



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