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Hermit Millionaire Loses $550,000 After Caretakers Leave Goods Behind

June 28, 1993

LONDON, Ontario (AP) _ Gordon Harley closed his printing plant in the 1950s, built a house and rented rooms to four tenants. He invested carefully, choosing blue-chip stocks and long-term bonds, and became wealthy.

But earlier this month, the affairs of London’s ″millionaire hermit″ went public. Police announced burglars had made off in March with more than $550,000 of Harley’s bonds and negotiable stocks.

Harley, now 78, has Alzheimer’s disease and lives in a nursing home.

Management of his house and estate were taken over in February by Ontario’s public trustee, which apparently overlooked the $550,000 in stocks and bonds that Harley stashed in his basement.

Amid criticism from police and Harley’s family, deputy trustee Russ Carrington insisted investigators searched and cleaned out Harley’s house.

″When our investigators went through that house, it was in just deplorable condition,″ he said. ″To the best of my knowledge, they took out everything they thought was valuable.″

Searchers did find letters from banks and companies connected to Harley’s fortune, he said. But they had not yet assembled a team for an extensive search when thieves broke into the house.

Police believe a month passed between the trustee’s search and the burglary, in which two suspects have been charged.

The public trustee currently manages 21,000 estates in Ontario worth a total of nearly $400 million.

Staff at Elmwood Place Retirement Community say the intensely private Harley cares little for his fortune, or the publicity it has generated. Apparently, he tracked his investments less as a career than as a pastime.

″He knows his financial status and he doesn’t see any point in discussing it,″ said Elmwood administrator Mary Heppelle. ″He seems happy now.″

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