Old friend brings down alleged cancer faker
Jon Woodward, ctvbc.ca
Published Friday, July 15, 2011 7:04PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, November 27, 2015 11:04AM PST
A B.C. man who police say faked cancer to defraud dozens of people of over a million dollars was brought down by an old friend and former business partner, police say.
Douglas Archie Clark, 64, may never have been caught if his friend hadn't acted on suspicions that Clark's cancer wasn't real, and taken the investigation into his own hands by contacting and documenting as many alleged victims as he could find.
"This witness is clearly organized, meticulous, and tenacious," said Insp. Dave Fleugel of the Ridge Meadows RCMP. "That's the perfect witness. They're part investigator, if you will. That was key to this case."
The witness that made the difference is Maple Ridge consultant Chuck Gale. Gale first met Clark watching their kids' soccer games in the 1970s. When Clark wanted to get out of the truck driving business, the pair went into business selling office supplies.
"He's a very clever man," Gale told CTV News. "He would claim that he had no skills, but he did. He was good, he was a quick learner."
After several years the pair drifted apart, and Gale returned to his consulting business. But a few years ago, Clark showed up on Gale's door with a compelling story.
"He was in tears," recalled Gale. "He told me he needed money. He explained to me that he was dying of cancer, and needed drugs."
According to Gale, Clark said he was an admiral in the Canadian navy, and had paid for experimental drugs. But, Clark said, the Canadian Forces abandoned him when he and his wife got sick.
Clark even showed off what appeared to be a complete military uniform that fooled Gale, who really did serve in the Navy.
"It was all believable," he said. "Everything he said, there was an element of truth. He would claim to have meetings with the Minister of Defense, and you check the newspaper, and by gosh, the Minister was in town that weekend. Everything would jibe."
Veterans told CTV News that the medical plan available to all Canadians usually pays for treatment, and the Canadian Forces' drug plan is quite generous and would cover such ailments.
Gale said he first offered to help Clark find a way to get the military to pay for the treatment, but Clark refused. So in a series of payments, Gale gave Clark $23,000.
"He was a friend, and I thought he would die without them," he said. "But then I started sniffing around. I had an uneasy feeling."
The first crack in the story appeared when Gale ran into Clark's wife, and asked her how she was dealing with the sickness.
"She said, ‘No, I'm fine. I'm broke. I'm living in a garage. I've been taken for everything,'" Gale said. "That's how the story came out."
Gale led the charge to get in touch with the remaining victims, and amassed a stack of affidavits. He asked military contacts if there was such an admiral, and they said no.
When he took the case to the police, initially officers were unsure he had enough evidence to make a criminal charge of fraud, and advised him to sue in civil court.
Gale took their advice, and sued – but Clark refused to show up to court, he said. So Gale says he hatched a trick of his own. He knew Clark was a casino regular at Boulevard, and he might jump at a chance to win a prize. So Gale stuck a court summons in a fake casino envelope.
"Strangely enough, he opened it, obeyed the summons, went to court, and registered. At that point we had him," he said.
Gale won a civil judgment, and the police finally became interested in the case. Ridge Meadows RCMP assigned an investigator, and the crown laid charges in June.
Clark now faces 13 counts of fraud from more than 40 victims. Since then, four more people have come forward with a total of $500,000 in new claims, and one person who was writing a series of cheques to Clark cancelled the transaction, losing only $700, police said.
Clark skipped his first court date, and there is now a warrant out for his arrest. Police say he is now a fugitive.
"It's significant, it's prolific, and we want Mr. Clark in custody," Insp. Fleugel said, saying that it's in Clark's best interests to turn himself in.
Gale said there may be more victims out there, and there's no shame in being had.
"Don't be ashamed to go to the police….I'm not ashamed at all. I'm disappointed I didn't pick up on the signals but that's how con men operate. They prey on people and they're good it," he said.
"It's very convincing. This fellow deserves an academy award on all levels," he said.
Gale said he doesn't know where all the money went, but he has his suspicions because Clark was a high-roller in Boulevard Casino.
"Not in a million years did I expect a friend of mine to end up like this. To this day, I wonder what happened," he said.