Chadwick, Cassie L. (1859–1907)

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Chadwick, Cassie L. (1859–1907)

Canadian swindler who defrauded rich Americans and Ohio banks out of an estimated $2 million. Name variations: Constance Cassandra Chadwick; alias Lydia de Vere. Born Elizabeth Bigley in Strathroy, Ontario, Canada, in 1859; died in prison in 1907; daughter of an Ontario railway worker; married Dr. Leroy Chadwick.

Canadian con-artist Cassie L. Chadwick plied her trade in the United States for a number years until her illicit machinations caused the failure of one Ohio bank and the near failure of several others. At first, she was known as Lydia de Vere in San Francisco where she bilked the unsuspecting by passing herself off as a clairvoyant. Following a move to Cleveland in 1886, she married a respected Ohio physician, Leroy Chadwick, whom she had met in a whore house on Euclid Avenue where she assured him that she was only there to instruct the girls in etiquette. She then set up her greatest con.

In the lobby of the New York's posh Holland House hotel, she was introduced to an Ohio banker named Dillon and told him that she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie. To prove her assertion, she took Dillon on a carriage ride to Carnegie's Fifth Avenue mansion. While Dillon remained in the carriage, she ascended the steps, was admitted into the mansion, and stayed nearly 30 minutes. When Chadwick reemerged, she turned to the mansion and waved to a well-dressed man at the window. She tripped as she entered the carriage and dropped a piece of paper. The banker picked it up. To his dismay, he was holding a promissory note for $2 million signed by Andrew Carnegie, the same man, said Chadwick, who had waved at the window. As Dillon pumped Chadwick for details, she swore the banker to silence and told him that Carnegie, out of shame for her illegitimacy, had given her even more notes, worth $7 million, but because of her own shame she was frightened of drawing on them. She also told him that she would inherit $400 million on Carnegie's death.

In actuality, the man at the window was Carnegie's butler whom she had managed to occupy by claiming that she was interested in the credentials of a maid she intended to employ. The promissory notes were fake. Returning to Ohio, Dillon convinced Chadwick to put the notes in a safe-deposit box in a local bank for safe keeping. He then shared her secret with most every lender in greater Cleveland and beyond. Bankers, eager to partake in the millions to be gleaned, encouraged her to take out loans of up to $1 million at usurious interest rates of 25%. Rather than demand payment on the interest, they let the debts compound annually, convinced they would reap their reward after probate. Chadwick meanwhile became known as the "Queen of Ohio." She bought diamond necklaces, filled 30 closets with clothes, had a gold organ installed in her living room, and entertained lavishly, spending $100,000 for a dinner party. Even millionaires loaned her money, including a Massachusetts entrepreneur named Herbert Newton. When Newton became nervous and called in the loan for $190,000, Chadwick was indignant, explaining that all her securities, all $10 million, were in the Wade Park National Bank in Cleveland. Newton pressed his case with the police. On inspection, the notes were found to be obvious forgeries.

The scam placed several Ohio banks in trouble. A run on the Citizen's National Bank of Oberlin, which had loaned her $200,000, forced a bankruptcy. When queried about his daughter in hopes he could save the banks, Andrew Carnegie issued a press release: "Mr. Carnegie does not know Mrs. Chadwick of Cleveland. … Mr. Carnegie has not signed a note for more than thirty years." Cassie Chadwick was arrested on December 7, 1904, at her suite in Cleveland's Hotel Breslin. At the time, she was ensconced in bed, along with her money belt containing $100,000. Tried and convicted of fraud and sentenced to ten years, Cassie Chadwick died in jail three years later.