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Cassie Chadwick
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    (October 10, 1857-October 10, 1907)
    Born in Eastwood, Ontario, Canada
    Birth name was Elizabeth Bigley
    In her most ambitious con, claimed to be the out-of-wedlock daughter of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and that she would inherit $400 million upon his death
    She launched her first scam at the age of 13, forging a letter claiming she had been left a legacy from a deceased uncle, then convincing a local bank to loan her money in advance of her receiving the inheritance.
    Due to her age, she avoided punishment by promising never to do it again.
    A decade later, she hired a printer to create calling cards identifying her as the heir to a $15,000 fortune that she used to pass bad checks at several upscale stores.
    Her first marriage, to Ohio physician Wallace Springsteen, broke up in twelve days, after a number of furious merchants demanded that the doctor settle his new wife's outstanding debts (1882).
    She hit the road as a clairvoyant, until she forged some promissory notes, convinced one of her clients to cash them, and got busted (1889).
    She got paroled after serving three years of a nine year sentence by once again promising to go straight (1893).
    Her imposture as Carnegie's daughter came crashing down when securities she had provided as collateral for a bank loan were discovered to be a forgery (1904).
    One of her largest creditors, Citizens National Bank of Oberlin, went bankrupt after her exposure.
    She had borrowed at least $650,000 (equivalent to over $16 million in 2019) from Ohio banks, although it was rumored that her total takings were significantly higher, with several banks allegedly absorbing their losses in silence to avoid panicking depositors.
    As a girl, she lost the hearing in one ear.
    During her first stint in jail, she told the warden he would lose $5,000 in a business deal and die from cancer, both of which happened -- so maybe she should have stuck to being a clairvoyant.
    She set up her big con during a visit to New York by asking a friend of her third husband (another Ohio doctor) to drive her to her father's house -- the Carnegie manison. She then went inside for a half hour, and came out carrying a promissory note signed by Carnegie that she happened to drop. (In reality, she spent her entire time in the mansion talking to the head housekeeper -- ostensibly to check on a reference provided by a servant -- and the promissory note was a forgery prepared in advance.)
    After getting the friend to swear to keep her secret, she reluctantly admitted to being Carnegie's illegitimate daughter.
    As part of her con, she played on the bankers' greed by letting them charge usurious interest rates.
    Carnegie had pity for one group of her victims, donating $15,000 to reimburse the residents and students of Oberlin who lost their deposits when Citizens National went belly up.

Credit: C. Fishel

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