Mitch Dubros parked and walked the snowy path up to Citytv reporter Cynthia Mulligan’s home. She was not expecting his arrival. A licenced private investigator, Dubros was working for the Mike Bullard defence team. Bullard, a well-known TV host and comedian, was in 2018 facing a criminal charge of making harassing phone calls to Mulligan, his ex-girlfriend. Dubros had been offered $1,000 by Bullard’s lawyer to have a series of conversations with witnesses who were scheduled to testify in Bullard’s case and, according to Dubros, “dig up dirt.”
Dubros is the Hollywood image of a private eye: leather jacket, open-collared white shirt, aviator sunglasses. He describes himself as an expert in intelligence and countermeasures and a “paranormal” sleuth. He tells prospective clients how, as a young boy, he was identified as an “Indigo Child” with supernatural traits. As an adult, he developed “an uncanny ability to detect liars in minutes (and sometimes seconds).”
“At my firm, we do the things police can’t,” Mitchell Dubros boasted in 2021 on IdeaMensch, an online “interview platform.”
Briefly, in 2017, Dubros and another investigator had a business called “the Men in White” — dressed in white tuxedoes they announced the creation of a “unique supernatural crime division” that would use “cutting edge gadgetry” to track down ghosts just in time for Halloween.
What Dubros describes as a swashbuckling career — cases ranging from missing persons to “cheating” spouses to the Bullard case — had led him to a University Avenue courtroom, where he faced charges of obstructing justice. The prosecution contended he tried to intimidate Mulligan and another person from testifying against Bullard, and that he put pressure on two other people to get Mulligan to drop the whole thing. In his defence, Dubros testified that he had used a poor choice of words when he showed up at the homes of witnesses before a court hearing.
A criminal harassment charge against Bullard was earlier dismissed at his preliminary inquiry on June 1, 2018. On June 8, 2018, Bullard pleaded guilty to one count of making harassing phone calls. He also pleaded guilty to two breaches of a court order — one of which required him to have no contact, direct or indirect, with Mulligan. Bullard was discharged from court with a clean criminal record and six months of probation.
Reached by the Star, Bullard said he knew nothing of the Dubros case, and declined to comment. His lawyer during the 2018 case, Calvin Barry, did not respond to a request for an interview.
Dubros told the Star Friday that he could not speak about the case until after he was sentenced in court, scheduled for Tuesday. Dubros told a Star reporter to “be careful,” then hung up.
What follows comes from trial testimony in the obstruction of justice case against Dubros last fall.
It’s Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, 9:30 a.m.
Dubros had a tape recorder concealed in his jacket. He turned it on before he got to Mulligan’s front door. He was working for Barry, Bullard’s defence counsel. Bullard’s preliminary hearing on harassment charges was coming up.
When Mulligan opened the door, Dubros introduced himself. “Hello, hi, sorry to bother you. My name is Mitchell Dubros, I am a private investigator. I work for Calvin Barry. Can we talk for a couple of minutes?”
Mulligan was taken aback. The Citytv reporter had been up late, hosting a charity event, arriving home after midnight.
“No,” Mulligan said, “why would I want to do that if you are working for Calvin Barry?” As the Dubros trial heard when she testified, the experience with Bullard had been upsetting. The charges against Bullard were working their way through the court system and Mulligan and others were scheduled to testify in a preliminary hearing in two months.
Dubros, standing on Mulligan’s front porch, made a suggestion. “I was just hoping, before you say no, will you look me up? I’m one of the best.” He added, “nobody wants (the Bullard case) to go any further. Is there anything we can do to solve this? If he promises to stay away. The guy, the guy loved you … he was crazed in love and he didn’t know what to do.”
Mulligan asked Dubros if he knew that, at one point, she was so concerned with what was happening with Bullard that she moved with her two daughters out of their house.
Dubros replied that he did not know this, and continued his pitch. “Is there anyway to simplify this, to make it go away so it doesn’t get any worse, any more stories, any more garbage coming out?”
Mulligan moved to close her front door. “I’m done, I don’t want to be rude, I don’t want to talk anymore.” Mulligan said, shutting the door. Dubros walked back to his car, making an audio record of the time and date of his visit.
Shaken, Mulligan dialled the Toronto police officer investigating the Bullard case to let him know what had happened. As she told the jury in the Dubros case last fall she felt Dubros subjected her to “veiled threats” and pushed to “make this go away.” Mulligan also testified that Dubros was “just an extension of Mr. Bullard, it was a terrible feeling and it was a terrible feeling and it brought everything back.”
Dubros left Mulligan a voicemail that Sunday evening.
“Hi Cynthia, it’s Mitch Dubros calling, the private investigator. It was nice meeting you today. I’m trying to do some damage control. I have this great respect for you and so I really don’t want to investigate you, I don’t want this to get blown out of proportion,” Dubros said in his message. He concluded with a suggestion that she speak with Bullard’s lawyer Calvin Barry, and said there is “maybe nothing wrong with accepting a peace bond and moving on.”
While nothing prevents a private investigator from speaking to a potential witness to try and gather information to help the defence, provincial regulations require that they behave with “honesty and integrity” and not break any laws. Veteran private investigator Brian King of King International Advisory Group has been pushing for a robust code of ethics in Ontario for years. He had no involvement in this case. King said that the type of approach is key. “Harassment, intimidation or attempting to have someone change their story for the benefit of the accused is just not acceptable. Full stop,” King said.
Dubros’ trial in the Superior Court of Justice before Justice Kenneth Campbell last fall heard from Mulligan first, followed by three other witnesses, all paid a visit by Dubros before Bullard’s preliminary hearing. In each case, crown attorney Katherine Beaudoin played for the jury a recording made of Dubros’ approach, then asked the witness questions.
Jamie Tumelty is a veteran Citytv cameraman who has covered politics with Cynthia Mulligan for decades. He testified that on Feb. 27, 2018, he received a telephone call from Dubros. Crown attorney Beaudoin played the recording Dubros made of the call (police obtained the recordings as part of their investigation).
“My name’s Mitchell, I’m a private investigator and I just have a couple of quick questions for you,” Dubros began. “I represent the defence team for Bullard. Bullard against Cynthia Mulligan.”
Tumelty was at home reading the newspapers and preparing for the day ahead. As he told the court in Dubros trial, he had not been a witness in the Bullard trial but as a longtime colleague was aware of the case. Tumelty suggested Dubros contact Rogers Media, which owns Citytv. Dubros plowed ahead, speaking quickly, suggesting it would be best if Tumelty spoke to Mulligan and got her to back off.
Dubros’ tape is 12 minutes long — Dubros speaks for most of it.
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“A man’s freedom is on the line here,” Dubros said, a reference to the charges then pending against Bullard. “What if you and I sat down just mano-a-mano, had a coffee and said how can we help resolve all this … I don’t want to investigate. I’m a nice guy. I don’t need the money, I don’t need the glory … I want to mediate and resolve this without exposing all the things I have discovered. I haven’t even gotten my feet wet yet. I don’t want to investigate you, I don’t want to investigate Cynthia … I don’t want to be the guy that smears all of you or exposes your personal lives … it’s not my motive to be a big-shot investigator and expose all these little details and crap about you people.”
Before he hangs up, Dubros tells Tumelty: “I can talk to everyone, I can sling hearsay that will taint all of your professional careers, just the murmurs of it … if you have influence with Cynthia, tell her you and I spoke, this guy called me, he sounds like a decent guy, he’s got some dirt and he doesn’t want to sling it.”
“Just bury this thing,” Dubros says, ending the call shortly after.
In his testimony at Dubros’ trial, Tumelty said he felt he was subjected to “a level of intimidation” when Dubros was “threatening to dig up dirt.”
Tumelty texted Mulligan after Dubros hung up, telling her that a private investigator had called.
Court also heard from Pam Seatle, a colleague at Citytv., regarding a Feb. 27 call at work on her cellphone. Seatle was to be a witness in the upcoming preliminary hearing involving the harassment charges against Mike Bullard. Dubros recorded his phone call with Seatle.
“I represent the defence team,” Dubros told Seatle. “I told Cynthia … I don’t want to start talking to your neighbours … is it possible that Cynthia could just let it go and not proceed with the criminal element … I can be ruthless, I can dig every skeleton of you and her and the ex-husband … I think there is a pretrial hearing or a conference tomorrow … I have a whole list of things I could spin.”
Later, Dubros left a voicemail message for Seatle. She said her “radar was up” by this time. A recording of the message was kept by Seatle, and played for the court.
“Hi Pam, my name’s Mitch Dubros. I’m a private investigator … I just want to have a quick conversation before my investigation gets into full swing … it’s really in your best interest, it’s not a threat … I don’t want to investigate you but I have had all kinds of inconsistencies come up and things that are going to come out and I just want to get clarification so I don’t have to release this information.”
Dubros also went to see Mulligan’s ex-husband, Chris, in March. Chris Mulligan testified that Dubros and a colleague showed up at his home and began asking him about “Cynthia and the children” and he told him to “f– off” and closed the door. “I had heard there was a private investigator snooping around,” Chris told court. “My home is a safe home for the kids … I was a little ticked off that that barrier had been broken,” Chris testified, but added “I wasn’t threatened by him.”
After the Crown concluded its case against Dubros last October, his lawyer, John Navarrete told court that Dubros would testify.
Dubros told court that he became a private investigator 33 years ago. “Fascinated, liked helping people,” he said, explaining why he got into this line of business. “I’ve created a safe place for people to call, I’ve built up a business, I have almost 300 reviews.”
He said Calvin Barry, Mike Bullard’s criminal lawyer, called him one day and asked him to “go interview all these witnesses and dig up dirt” and to do it quickly as there was a preliminary hearing in Bullard’s case coming up. Dubros said he knew Barry socially but had never worked for him. As to Bullard, he did not know him, but remembered him as a “talk show comedian in Canada, a pretty funny guy so, of course, I wanted to go down and help if I could.”
Dubros’ lawyer, Navarrete, asked his client if he intended to “intimidate” or “blackmail” anyone. Dubros said, no. However, he acknowledged that “I may have chosen some of the wrong words.” Dubros also told court he did not have any “dirt” on anyone.
“I just wanted peace for all of them,” Dubros said.
“Did you intend to intimidate Cynthia Mulligan into not testifying at the preliminary hearing of Mike Bullard?” lawyer Navarrete asked.
“Absolutely not,” Dubros told court. He said that what he was trying to do with these conversations is “explain what an investigator does.” Had he learned any information from these conversations, Dubros said he only planned to “release” it to Bullard’s lawyer.
During cross-examination, Crown attorney Beaudoin referred to Dubros’ own recordings of his discussions with Mulligan and others in which he said he was going to dig up information and release it. “Sir, I’m going to suggest to you that this is a veiled threat to (Mulligan),” Beaudoin said.
Dubros said the Crown was wrong. He only intended to release information to his client — Barry — not make it public.
“I made a horrible, horrible mistake by not saying I would release your dirt to my client, so in their minds they thought for some reason that I was going to say it to the public,” Dubros replied. “I thought I was trying to help them all.”
Asked by Beaudoin about his payment for visiting the witnesses, Dubros said lawyer Barry offered him $1,000 — but never paid.
The 12-person jury, having completed deliberations, filed in to the courtroom.
The trial, run under pandemic conditions, required social distancing throughout the court. At one point in the proceedings, when Justice Campbell was addressing the jury, he apologized that he could not look directly at all of them as they were so spread out through the court.
The registrar of the court asked Dubros to rise. “Do you find the accused Mitchell Dubros guilty or not guilty?”
The foreperson of the court stood up. “We the jury find him guilty.”
Tuesday, Feb. 1 has been set as his sentencing date.
Kevin Donovan is the Star’s chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. He can be reached at 416-312-3503 or via email: [email protected]
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