CHICAGO (CBS) — Accused serial scammer Candace Clark remains in jail, a week after she was arrested on five felony charges.
Since mid 2019 several people filed police reports claiming she cheated them out of thousands of dollars in rent. CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker began exposing her swindles just weeks before she got nabbed by police and was there as Clark’s latest eviction went down and the homeowner got her house back.
A Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officer knocked on the door and yelled “Sheriff’s Department, come to the door!”
Then the officer kicked the door and shouted “Hello!”
It’s an intimidating sound to most, but sweet music to Fiori Hadera’s ears.
“Now I am happy. It happened today. I am..I just can’t…” said Hadera, nearly speechless at the prospect of once again being able to enter her own home whenever she wants.
On this day, Sheriff’s officers helped her take it back.
“To finally be here. This is a nice feeling,” said Hadera – as she stood on the sidewalk watching officers enter her home.
Hadera says Candace Clark was in living in her home rent-free. Clark had signed a lease, agreeing to pay $9,000 a month, but never paid a penny.
“She has to pay for her criminal act,” said Hadera.
Clark looked good on paper. She had a state job, made nearly $300,000 a year and had a credit score of 734 — only none of it was true.
One thing is for certain: Clark will never live in that Lincoln Park home again.
As a Sheriff’s officer taped a No Trespassing warning to the front door and told Hadera they are turning the house over to her, she worried that her five-bedroom, five-bath, $2.5 million mini mansion is not the house she first rented to Clark.
“Oh my God,” said Hadera as she entered her home for the first time in months.
“Damage, damage everything. They didn’t clean,” she noticed.
The place was a mess.
“Look the dog (waste). Look. Everywhere,” Hadera pointed to spot in the living room.
Liquor bottles littered the floor. It reeked of cigarette smoke and spoiled food.
And, Hadera noticed the back door was broken.
Clark and whoever else stayed here left behind many of their belongings; including mattresses, clothing, televisions, and some things you wouldn’t believe.
Hadera found a printer in the garage. Nearby she found a pile of blank check-making paper and more than 20 fake Bank of America checks. Each one is printed with the same check number. What was Clark up to? You decide.
Here’s what we do know. At least two of Clark’s victims showed us bounced checks with the same check number as the fake ones Hadera found in her house.
Hadera estimates she is out around $30,000 in lost rent – plus thousands more in cleanup costs.
Another homeowner told us he is out around $50,000.
And, they aren’t the only ones Clark is accused of swindling. The CBS 2 Investigators confirmed Clark has been evicted from eight locations since 2016; from modest condos to luxury mansions. During that time – she’s accused of cheating landlords out of $213,755.
We also found evidence Clark was trying to rent another house when our ongoing investigation finally led to her arrest at the Gold Coast Starbucks last week.
Forging her way into multi-million dollar homes is not the most elaborate con Clark is accused of committing.
Clark produced several events throughout 2019, appearing to be sworn-in to her new position by someone wearing a judicial robe.
She pretended to be a high-ranking state official, the new Director of Special Investigations for Illinois and the first African-American woman to hold that position. We learned that position does not exist.
But, the show went on. It was a full production, with Clark writing the script for actors to read. Clark hired more than 50 actors, musicians, singers, and caterers for the ceremonies; but never paid any of them.
When we caught her in the act, she refused to talk; only telling Tucker to “Get out of my face.”
“She’s the devil,” said Darlene Simmons.
She thought Clark was a real estate agent and could help her buy a home. She fell for the con and ended up losing all her retirement savings – more than $73,000 according the lawsuit she filed.
“She got me. She got me good,” said Simmons.
We thought these were these only victims, but our investigation prompted calls from several more.
“She’s evil. She’s a monster,” said Staneeda Ware.
Ware was willing to go on camera, telling us about the time two decades ago, her path crossed with Clark’s.
“I had to share my story because it didn’t start just now. This happened 20 years ago,” said Ware.
Ware was a college student with a 2-year-old son when she says she was conned by Clark.
Back then Clark pretended to work for a non-profit that helped young mothers buy homes.
“She seemed caring, outgoing. It was awesome. She seemed like she really cared about my life,” said Ware.
Ware ended up giving Clark $3,000 and she got two friends to join her.
“She scammed all three of us out of $5,000 with the program. What person would do that? What person would be okay knowing I’m taking money from this woman’s child,” said Ware.
And, Ware has more than just a compelling story – she has video.
The video was taken in October 2000 at an Illinois Forensics Department Appreciation Brunch honoring Candace Dixon. Dixon is Clark’s maiden name.
On the video, Clark said “I want to thank you for coming out.”
Ware pointed her out. Her father actually shot the video as a favor for Clark, because she was Ware’s friend — or so they thought.
On the video, Clark seemed overcome with emotion and said, “I don’t know what to say. I didn’t know people thought of me that way.” She wiped away a tear.
“That’s all fake,” said Ware as she watched it.
At the time, though, a young Ware took to podium to praise her friend, even writing her a poem and reciting it on the video, “We can say you’re like a priceless masterpiece hanging as most of them do,” said Ware 20 years ago.
Now, she said, “I was really excited for my friend and to know it was all a fake. It hurts.”
Another viewer sent us a 2007 police report from suburban Hazel Crest. The complaint? Candace Clark was posing as a “law enforcement officer” and sellling goods police had confiscated from “drug dealers.” The accuser says she gave Clark $6,000 and got nothing in return.
Clark does have prior felony convictions for theft and impersonation dating back to 2008. But, she has not been sentenced to prison. She has been put on probation, ordered to pay restitution and fines, and to perform community service.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller has one explanation for why authorities have not connected the dots between prior convictions and new police reports.
“Sometimes one police department doesn’t know what’s in the other police department files and it slips through the cracks,” said Miller.
So, why don’t police officers take the extra step and make phone calls or do the research?
“Police officers are territorial. Chicago is interested in crimes in Chicago. Oak Park Police, Oak Park. If they have enough evidence in their jurisdiction to get charges they’re happy,” said Miller.
Since no one connected the dots, Clark’s reign of scams spanned at least 20 years. The question now is: is it over?
“It’s her high. She’s not gonna stop. It’s in her blood,” said Ware.
Miller said the statute of limitations on most felonies, like the financial crimes Clark is charged with, is three years. However, any old and new police reports filed regarding incidents older than that might have an impact at sentencing, if Clark is convicted.