Ottawa man who says he burned $1M to thwart ex-wife has fundraiser

“A small fortune is required to bring an end to my legal travails.”

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Bruce McConville, the Ottawa businessman who told an incredulous judge in 2020 that he burned $1 million in cash so his ex-wife wouldn’t get a dime was set to have a fundraiser for himself on Saturday to pay legal bills.

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The benefit concert was scheduled for 4 pm to 9 pm at the Eastview Legion on Cyr Avenue in Vanier.

“A small fortune is required to bring an end to my legal travails. Any contribution you could make in this hour of need would be greatly appreciated,” McConville wrote on his Facebook account, adding that folks who couldn’t attend the benefit concert could also send him money directly.

McConville, 58, was sentenced to 30 days in jail in 2020 to rethink his claim that he burned $1 million.

The Vanier businessman and failed mayoral candidate sold properties and businesses behind his ex-wife’s back, then withdrew the $1 million and claimed in court that he burned the money in two campfires: $743,000 on Sept. 23, 2019, and $296,000 on Dec. 15, 2019.

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McConville has long defied a court order to file an affidavit about his finances, notably where the money went from the secret property sales. Because his financial affairs remain a mystery, the court has been unable to figure out what he owes in child and spousal support. He was paying neither in 2020.

McConville also defied a court order not to sell his properties because there was a fear he was trying to keep the proceeds out of the court’s reach. McConville, in fact, sold some assets to his former accountant.

He has further defied a Superior Court order to pay the court $300,000 as a security.

McConville’s explanation that he set fire to the missing million was revealed during a 2020 contempt motion before Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips.

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McConville told Phillips he withdrew a total of $1,050,000 through as many as 25 withdrawals from six bank accounts — and had receipts to back up his claim — but no longer had the cash.

“So where’s the money now?” the judge pressed.

“I destroyed it,” McConville replied.

“You’ve lost me. What do you mean?” the judge said.

McConville rambled and spoke of anxiety about a relationship with a daughter.

“Can I back you up a bit? When you say you destroyed it, what do you mean?” the judge asked.

“I burnt it,” McConville said.

“To the tune of how much?” the judge probed.

“In total, about a million and thirty-nine thousand dollars,” McConville said. (He later said he burned $1,050,000 in all.)

“How does destroying over a million dollars advance your child’s best interest?” the judge asked.

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McConville admitted he didn’t record a video of the bonfires of cash, had no witnesses and didn’t document it in any fashion.

“You understand that’s hard to believe?” Phillips said.

“Yes, I do,” McConville agreed.

McConville said he burned the cash out of frustration with divorce proceedings.

“It’s not something that I would normally do,” he said. “I am not a person that is extremely materialistic. A little goes a long way. I have always been fruitful. That’s why my business lasted for 31 years.”

Phillips didn’t buy the story and ruled it was “crystal clear” that McConville “has very clearly and deliberately set out to thwart the court and the proper administration of justice.”

Before McConville was escorted out of court in handcuffs in 2020, the judge added: “You are making a mockery of this court, and its process, something I will not allow … You are conducting yourself with intent to deliberately and willfully frustrate the proper administration of justice.

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“More particularly, I find what you have done to be morally reprehensible because what you claim to have done willfully and directly undermines the interests of your children.”

The judge then reminded McConville that he, like all parents, had an obligation to provide for his children. Instead, “you have set out to do damage to your children’s future by destroying, on purpose, the financial wherewithal that you had to provide for their best interests.”

The judge said he had to send McConville to jail to send a clear message that court orders must be obeyed.

McConville’s fundraiser for legal bills came after a court order enforcing severe financial penalties. In an order, McConville was told he would have to pay $2,000 every day to his ex-wife until he complied with court orders to file a full and honest account of his financial affairs and, notably, where the $1 million in cash went.

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It was $14,000 a week for a man who had long hidden his financial affairs from court and his ex-wife. McConville has not responded to calls about Saturday’s fundraiser.

The judge, in a 2020 ruling, said he didn’t think McConville burned any money, let alone $1 million.

“I don’t believe you. I don’t trust you. I don’t think you’re honest,” the judge said. “I urge you to get in compliance because that $2,000 a day is going to run up in such a way that you lose everything.”

A lawyer representing McConville’s ex-wife told court the story was just nonsense and noted that, while McConville claimed to have zero income, documents showed he had around $9,000 in monthly expenses.

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