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Life savings lost
On a porch, outside her trailer, Marjorie Lovatt has stacked boxes head-high.
As debts mount and collection agencies circle, the 89-year-old has been slowly peddling everything she owns at the Abbotsford flea market.
“I’ve had to borrow to keep myself from going hungry,” said Lovatt, who sold Aunt Margie’s Fudge at the PNE for 55 years.
The Maple Ridge senior is one of more than 40 people who say they were scammed by Douglas Archie Clark, who police say posed as a retired member of the Canadian Navy to borrow more than a million dollars to pay for cancer treatment.
Over two years, Lovatt claims she lent Clark $250,000, wiping out her life savings and eventually dipping into her pension.
Clark now faces 13 counts of fraud, although Lovatt’s allegations are not part of the current charges.
Lovatt said Clark, who she has known for 30 years, told her he needed the cash to pay for experimental treatments in the U.S. to fight cancer. Each treatment cost $3,000, he told her. He always promised he’d return the money, but had a tale of hard luck when it came time to pay back the cash, said Lovatt.
“He’d say, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll have it back on the weekend.’ Now it’s been two years.”
Lovatt, whose husband died three years ago, now lives in a trailer on the property where they built their home. She can barely afford groceries and will have to declare bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy would mean losing her only asset – her cosy trailer. She used her last two pension cheques to repay the money she’d borrowed from friends. Last Christmas, outreach workers brought her food.
“I can’t believe I was so stupid,” said Lovatt, scolding herself for believing Clark’s statements that included having to pay for his wife’s and colleague’s funerals, although Lovatt’s now found out they are both alive.
“He really had me fooled. The soft spot in my heart got too soft, I suppose.”
Lovatt heard about Clark after police issued a warning about him in June, alleging he was suspected of duping dozens for money.
“We don’t know what he’s done with the money,” said Lovatt.
Ridge Meadows Mounties began investigating the 64-year-old three years ago after an old friend of his launched a complaint.
Chuck Gale met Clark in the late 1970s and eventually went into business with him, running Bond Street Stationary in Maple Ridge, an office supply store.
The pair drifted apart and Gale resumed his career as an engineer.
In 2006 however, Clark showed up at Gale’s front door to tell him he was dying of cancer.
“He needed these treatments,” Gale explained.
“I had no reason to question it, so sure, I loaned him some bucks.”
In eight separate loans, Gale says he lent Clark $23,000.
But a year later, when the dates for repayment passed, Gale grew suspicious.
His suspicions were confirmed when he ran into Clark’s wife, and asked her how Clark was doing. He then learned Clark did not suffer from cancer, had left his wife broke and living in a garage.
“He has destroyed his family,” said Gale.
Gale then started sniffing around and compiled a list of 40 people in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge who may have been affected.
When Gale took his complaint to police, he was initially told there wasn’t enough evidence for a criminal charge but was advised to pursue Clark in civil court.
Gale filed a claim in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court and won a judgement in April 2010 for the amount that he lent Clark. That’s when police began taking his allegations seriously.
“I’m one of the lucky ones because I got him to sign some promissory notes,” said Gale.
“I had a paper trail which ultimately allowed me to go through the court system.”
The investigation is now one of the largest fraud cases Ridge Meadows Mounties have dealt with. Clark was charged in June with 13 counts of fraud, with more charges likely as other victims come forward.
He was arrested again in July after he failed to show up for a court appearance and remains in custody awaiting a bail hearing.
“I’m just glad I stuck with it,” said Gale.
“The idea has always been to stop this individual from doing more harm.”
• A trust fund has been set up for Marjorie Lovatt at TD Canada Trust . To donate, quote account number 01750-6442324.