September 29, 2005.
North County News, New York.
The scam artist who duped Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown into giving him a Seeing Eye dog despite not being visually impaired has fleeced two more unsuspecting victims.
Tennessee native Clyde Lee has cheated two Atlanta area women by creating a handyman service when he moved to the city following the dissolution of his marriage to an Ohio woman.
One of the women, Kathy Morreira, 33, of Alpharetta, Georgia, who Lee hired to be the financial officer for Two Good Men Handyman Services and handle clerical work, has been plunged into bankruptcy.
The other, Marilynne Whitfield, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, lost $4,000 in 2003 after she agreed with Lee to build a patio onto her house but never did any work.
Whitfield is now suing Morreira in Fulton County court amid accusations she is Lee's accomplice.
Whitfield had also planned to sue Lee but has been unable to track down the elusive con man's whereabouts after he hurriedly fled Atlanta earlier this year, purportedly to the Mississippi casino town of Tunica.
"I knew nothing of his past that was true," Morreira said. "Everything I knew about him was a lie. He had already befriended others and they believed his stories so I didn't feel any reason whatsoever to doubt him. I wish someone would have warned me."
Last April, North County News confirmed Lee had successfully completed a Guiding Eyes for the Blind training course in 1997, where he was paired with a yellow male Labrador named Epic, although he had an ordinary prescription for being nearsighted.
North County News was able to obtain his 1997 graduation certificate and a copy of a 2001 eye prescription to confirm he went through the program.
Repeated messages left for Guiding Eyes President and CEO William Badger to find out why the not-for-profit organization never sought to prosecute Lee for fraud were never returned.
Lee has developed elaborate schemes to cheat emotionally distressed women out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For years he posed as a blind man in therapy sessions after suffering minor injuries in a 1995 Nashville sheet metal company mishap. With the dog in tow, he was able to concoct stories of personal tragedy, which allowed him to win over emotionally fragile women's affections.
Lee, 43, had been married five times between 1981 and 2001, leaving each wife staggering under an avalanche of debt while scamming countless others.
Morreira and Lee's last wife, Paula Terry-Locke of Westerville, Ohio, said he has been receiving Social Security checks of about $600 a month since claiming he was sight impaired.
Lee's remarkable schemes now have two women he defrauded exchanging barbs with each other.
Whitfield charged she wrote a $4,000 check to Morreira for agreeing to have a patio built onto her home, where Morreira cashed it on behalf of the handyman service but Lee never did the work.
She doesn't believe that Morreira was victimized by Lee but rather assisted him in obtaining his ill-gotten gains.
"The reason I don't buy it is when I was looking for them to get my money back, a lady that lived near the street told me they lived together," said Whitfield. "She's not a victim at all."
Morreira vehemently denied Whitfield's charge, saying she only learned of Lee's true identity through newspaper articles given to her. She acknowledged Lee was a roommate because she needed extra money from the rent he would provide.
"I most absolutely did not assist in his cons," she said. "As a matter of fact.I assisted him with physical labor despite my desire to only want to help with the clerical side of the business but I felt I had no choice when it came to the point where he didn't have anyone to help him."
Although Morreira avoided marriage despite several overtures, she was ensnared by Lee, similar to the five ex-wives, and has had her life ruined.
In spring 2003, she lost her job with an Atlanta employee benefits consulting job and was fighting a custody battle with her ex-husband to gain custody of her now 13-year-old daughter.
She said she met Lee through a couple of women at a therapy group where he told stories of how he had come to Atlanta to get a new lease on life.
He recounted tales of his five-year-old daughter's death from a heart valve defect and his wife had left him for another woman, leaving him broke in the split, Morreira recalled.
By then, Lee had started the handyman business. He offered Morreira a clerical position at his firm, which also entailed handling company finances. As time progressed, the business functioned only occasionally as a viable company.
"I was on the verge of losing my position at the company I was working for, so Clyde asked me to help him with the business end of this company," said Morreira, who now works as a data acquisition coordinator for an Atlanta food chain.
"He supposedly had his attorney draw up a contract and I became the financial officer of the company and basically handled clerical work. I had my attorney review the contract, which stated that he would reimburse me for any expenses that I put into the company. So I did invest money into the company."
Morreira bought five cell phones, a company truck, a computer and office furniture, designed a logo and printed business cards for the five employees. But when it came time for Lee's firm to reimburse her, the money never came.
She doesn't recall how much money she laid out, but her relationship with Lee cost her an estimated $200,000, which includes foreclosure on her house and the loss of her car when Lee took it to get back to Nashville.
She also cashed her retirement accounts to get more money.
"The only thing I didn't lose was my suitcase I had with me," said Morreira. "I had let him take over my finances-(a) huge mistake on my part. I know that. I don't know why I let him have the control. I was down because of the loss of my job and my level of confidence was low at the time. He wanted to help, so I let him."
Despite his unknown whereabouts, Terry-Locke confirmed suspicions that he was most recently in Tunica, Mississippi, about 35 miles south of Memphis. Last week, Terry-Locke received a brochure from Hollywood Casino in Tunica thanking Lee for becoming a Player's Club member, which enables him to receive complimentary rooms and other amenities when he visits.
Terry-Locke has been frustrated in her attempts to get local, state or federal authorities to prosecute Lee.
He receives about $600 in Social Security benefits for allegedly being disabled, both Terry-Locke and Morreira stated.
"If any authority wants to find him, they can at any time," Terry-Locke said.
Both woman are certain that his parents, Betty and Clyde Lee, of Dickson, Tennessee, at town about 40 miles outside Nashville, assist him in his scams.
Morreira claimed the check is sent to his parents' home where they wire money to him and possibly keep a portion for themselves.
North County News reached Betty Lee where she works at the Belle Meade, Tennessee Home Depot.
She angrily responded that she had no idea where her son was located before hanging up.
His father, Clyde Sr., also abruptly ended the conversation.
Meanwhile, despite having graduated Guiding Eyes, Lee no longer used the guide dog to move around by the time he reached Atlanta, Morreira said.
He still did have a yellow Labrador but Lee told her the dog was Epic's brother, Eric, given to him because he had been so close to the canine's sibling despite now being able to see. It is not known whether that is the original dog from Guiding Eyes.
For Morreira, her priority is to slowly build back her life and extricate herself from bankruptcy.
"I never could have imagined what this man did to me-even in my wildest, ugliest thoughts," she said. "I am a very honest person and it is difficult for me to understand how someone could concoct such outlandish lies."
Source URL: http://www.northcountynews.com/view.asp?s=9-28-05/news2.htm
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