Krcal had spent a lifetime swindling. Now he was locked away in a cashless world.
But Krcal (pronounced ker-sell) is a resourceful man. The old disguises of real estate developer, investment banker, and wealthy entrepreneur couldn't help him in the joint, but he could surely make friends as a lawyer. So that's what he became. As far as his fellow inmates knew, he was just an earnest barrister in the slam on contempt-of-court charges; there, he generously dispensed legal advice to his incarcerated brethren. He offered a particularly appetizing favor to Tony Whisenant, who was facing theft and probation violation charges.
In exchange for an initial down payment of $800, Krcal told Whisenant he'd hire an attorney who could ensure that Whisenant's probation was reinstated. Desperate, and thinking of his wife and two children, Whisenant phoned his mother, who sent an $800 money order to a woman Krcal knew.
The woman was Krcal's ex-girlfriend, but she wasn't an attorney. When Whisenant arrived in court last September, there was no lawyer to greet him.
"I was supposed to go to court with a lawyer that he was providing," says Whisenant. "But he wasn't there. He scammed my mom and dad out of $800."
Facing the judge alone, Whisenant was handed a sentence of 3 to 15 years.
Prosecutors are certain Krcal found other jailhouse prey during his time in lockup. If he has someone to talk to, they reason, he's likely making money. "He's one of the biggest scammers or con men I've dealt with in 10 years in the prosecutor's office," says Assistant Prosecutor Dan Kasaris.
To his many victims, Krcal was a fictional character. They knew him as a millionaire investor, a diamond trader, a landowner. He appeared friendly and trustworthy. By the time they learned the truth, Krcal had raided their bank accounts.
Says one victim: "If he touches you, your wallet's gone."
As a student at Thomas Jefferson Junior High on Cleveland's West Side, Clay Krcal was known for his imagination. John Webber shared a lunch table with the short, loquacious, blond-haired boy. He remembers Krcal once boasting about his father, a CEO with his own Lear jet.
There was no evidence to support Krcal's claims. Yet Webber admits his friend "always had cash."
Krcal didn't invite friends to his home; he feared they would discover the Krcals weren't as wealthy as they were cast, classmates believed. Yet, Webber says, the other students humored Krcal. His exaggerations were innocuous, typical of adolescence. "We wrote it off as him trying to fit in."
When they were both 17, Webber arranged a job for his friend at a tire shop. Webber sold tires as Krcal manned the register. One day, the drawer came up $250 short. Webber remembers the owner waving Krcal into his office. "I'll be right there," Krcal said. Then he fled. He never showed up for work again.
Krcal kept a low profile for a while. One day, Webber was driving along the Shoreway when his car broke down. He hiked to a Conoco on East 45th Street. "The security guard at the gas station had a nametag, and it said 'Krcal,'" Webber recalls. "I said, 'Hey, do you know Clay Krcal?' He says, 'Yes, that's my son.'"
To this day, Krcal won't discuss his father in specifics. He says only that "my father would fly throughout the country buying steel."
After high school, Webber went to college, while Krcal got married and began working full-time at All-American Sports, a Lorain football equipment refurbisher. "Clay is as good a worker as I ever had," says Don Gleisner, the company's president. But the young Krcal was already showing a taste for the finer things in life.
"I saw him one day in a brand-new Buick Riviera, and I heard that his wife had one, too," says Gleisner. Krcal wasn't yet 20 at the time. "I told him, 'I know you're a hard worker, Clay, but I pay you, I know how much you make, and you can't afford those cars. I hope you're not into any kind of trouble.'"
Krcal assured him the money was legit. It came from a $500,000 rare coin he inherited from his late father-in-law, he claimed.
Gleisner confesses that he "took it hook, line, and sinker." The matter was forgotten. Several years later, Gleisner made Krcal a foreman, a promotion that thrust $50,000 spending decisions on Krcal's young shoulders.
It wasn't long before Gleisner learned Krcal was salvaging damaged football equipment from the Dumpsters and selling it to youth leagues and Pop Warner teams, then pocketing the money. Krcal was also borrowing money from co-workers. Instead of paying them back, however, he'd simply add hours to their time cards.
Gleisner admonished him several times. "Finally, we had to fire him."
Gleisner admits, "The little shit really conned me." But what bothers him more is that Krcal didn't use his natural charm and business acumen for legitimate pursuits. "What a waste," he says. "This guy had brains, he had a good mentality. He could have been an asset to society."
Krcal says he left All-American voluntarily. "I'm tired of their shit," he told Webber, when the two ran into each other again. Besides, he was ready for a business venture of his own: With Webber as his partner, he'd start a company similar to All-American. Krcal still had contacts among the region's football teams; he could handle the new company's finances. Webber, a salesman, could chase contracts. In 1989, Touchdown Enterprises was born.
Both partners say the first few years were harmonious. Webber was the best man in Krcal's third wedding. Even so, Webber worried about his partner's seeming obsession with impressing others. "He drove this Cadillac everywhere, and he always had this big pocket of money. He'd pull out the wad in front of the girls at McDonald's."
When checks written to Touchdown started disappearing, Webber discovered how Krcal filled his money clip. Krcal said the checks never arrived, but Webber's clients had evidence to the contrary: cashed checks with Krcal's signature.
"He was swindling me out of the company, and here I was busting my ass, trying to build it out," Webber says. He left Touchdown. Krcal didn't last long on his own, and the company folded.
Krcal maintains he fired Webber, and that his partner's accusations only reflect their bitter parting. He expresses regret over the feud: "I lost a friend that I miss dearly."
But Webber figures he lost about $20,000 in the venture, with Krcal pocketing much of that. "When you first meet him, you like him," says Webber. "He's funny, even witty. Then once you get to know him, you hate him. You want him dead."
North Olmsted Detective Simon Cesareo is Greater Cleveland's leading Krcal scholar. He keeps a box stuffed with papers accumulated during the two years he tracked the con man. Cesareo thumbs through the old papers gingerly, as a grandmother might turn the pages in an ancient photo album.
Cesareo's archives begin around 1993, the year after Touchdown Enterprises crumbled. Krcal had moved to North Olmsted and entered the jewelry business. According to Cesareo, Krcal billed himself as an expert diamond trader.
The detective says Krcal would take someone's ring with the promise of finding a buyer. He would then get the diamond appraised and have a cheap replica produced. The fakes were sold to undiscriminating buyers at the same price as the appraised diamonds. Krcal, it seems, would then pocket the money from both the fake and the authentic. Those who provided the original rings rarely saw any money. "They ask for the money back, and he disappears," Cesareo says.
It wasn't long before the felonies piled up. Krcal was prosecuted for theft by deception in two separate jewelry cases. He pleaded no contest to both and was ordered to pay restitution.
It wasn't long before he moved back into the sporting goods business with a product called "Sideliner," a repair kit that was supposed to fix football equipment on the sidelines. He enlisted a Westlake company, Design Interface, to package the kit, assuring the company it would be paid after he received the final package design.
There was one small problem: Krcal didn't have money to pay restitution from the diamond cases, much less the $2,800 he owed Design Interface. He promised the company that his Chicago accountants would send a check. When Design Interface began pressing for its money, Krcal alternately explained that he was grief-stricken from a family member's auto accident, and that his accountants screwed up the payment. It was the last the company heard from Krcal.
Design Interface notified Westlake police, who issued a warrant. Fortunately for Krcal, new business opportunities were already presenting themselves.
Dwayne Harmon was dating a woman who lived in an Elyria apartment complex, the same building in which Krcal had taken refuge. "I had just gone through a divorce, and I was looking for something different, maybe go into my own business," says Harmon. "And Clay says he's a business broker, he can help me."
Harmon's hobby was skeet shooting. He dreamed of owning a ranch that offered a shotgun range, as well as duck and pheasant hunting. He mentioned this to Krcal. The next day, Krcal approached him about buying the Grand Valley Hunting Ranch in Ashtabula County.
It would cost $3 million, Krcal said. The price was much too steep for Harmon, a carpenter. But Krcal told him the owners were willing to let Harmon sell peat moss and oil reserves on the property; the profits would go toward the purchase.
At the same time, Krcal told the ranch's owners that Harmon had recently inherited $20 million and was prepared to pay top dollar.
Krcal began asking Harmon for money to prepare the deal. "He'd write down on a piece of paper all the things he paid for, and I just wrote him a check for that amount," says Harmon, who places the amount at about $10,000.
But when Harmon contacted the companies Krcal had supposedly paid, they told him they'd never heard of Clay Krcal. Some companies didn't exist. Others had closed in the 1970s or '80s. When Harmon asked for his money back, Krcal assured him it would be forthcoming. Harmon never saw a dime.
"I felt so stupid, but I guess I just trust people," says Harmon. "He can just pick out the trusting people and take advantage of them."
Krcal claims Harmon simply "walked away" from the deal. Court records show otherwise. In 1997, Krcal pleaded guilty to theft by deception, for which he was sentenced to three years of community service.
At the time, he was still facing restitution payments in North Olmsted, Westlake, and Hudson -- the latter for a check fraud case -- though he had received extensions for all. To stay out of jail, he needed to make money. So he embarked on his grandest scheme yet, under the umbrella of a new company, KDR Holdings.
Tom Dodak met Krcal at a seminar on factoring, a practice that involves buying a company's debt at a discounted rate, then collecting the debt for a profit. The former mortgage lender and IBM employee soon joined Krcal as a partner in KDR, and the pair began selling bonds called "Factor-It," which promised a return of 13 to 30 percent in 90 days.
The ridiculously high rates would seem an obvious red flag, even to the most naive investor. But KDR had no trouble finding clients. A Solon man dumped $100,000 into Factor-It. A Columbus man raided his IRA and absorbed a $10,000 early withdrawal penalty; he was certain his Factor-It return would dwarf that of his IRA.
But after enthusiastically recruiting clients, Krcal suddenly began dodging them. That's when Cesareo took notice.
"Quite a few people came in filing these [Factor-It] reports with North Olmsted Police," he says. "They were embarrassed, I guess, and they didn't want to press charges, but they threatened to if they didn't get their money back."
The threats worked. Krcal was still on probation. Another felony conviction meant certain jail time. So the Factor-It investors began receiving checks from KDR. Krcal and Dodak paid back most of the $190,000 they owed.
Cesareo was amazed the problem was resolved so simply. "The money was appearing out of nowhere, and he was paying these folks back. I couldn't figure out where the money was coming from, but the victims are happy, and they had their money."
Cesareo would learn the source of those paybacks soon enough. They came from another KDR venture: land development.
For a time, Clay Krcal was the finest convicted felon ever to teach adult education for the Catholic Charities Center of Lorain.
He arrived on its doorstep to perform community service, stemming from the swindle of Harmon, and told administrators he could do much more than mop floors, his assigned task. He was an entrepreneur and a highly successful investor. Why not let him teach GED money management classes?
Inexplicably, administrators agreed. They assigned him to a class of low-income adults. Two nights a week, Krcal imparted his wisdom on all things financial. (Catholic Charities declined comment.)
He was, by all accounts, a sensation. The same powers of persuasion that moved Harmon to buy a ranch compelled single moms on welfare to pore over the NASDAQ quotes, inspired ex-cons to become infatuated with E-Trade. Krcal's boundless energy fueled their interest. The class decided it would invent a product it could market.
John Nagy attended the class after being laid off. One day, he brought in a piece of plastic discarded from a Lakewood factory. It worked splendidly as a mouse pad, he discovered. Krcal told the students he could acquire 1,000 plastic pads, and that his advertising company would market them. The class had its product.
Word of Krcal's miracle work reached The Plain Dealer, which published an article celebrating Krcal's zeal for "volunteering" and his willingness to educate students "about what he knows best -- investing money and starting a business."
There was no mention of community service or Krcal's mounting convictions. The article featured a picture of Krcal in front of the class, pointing at the mouse pad.
The class decided profits would go to the center's lab, which was woefully lacking in computers. But Krcal was slow to deliver on his promise of 1,000 pads.
"Every week we asked, 'Hey, did you get [the plastic pads]?'" says Nagy. "He told us his whole office was full of them. He could hardly sit down in there . . . but nothing ever happened."
Then, Krcal simply disappeared. "There were people in that class who have lived through horrendous experiences," says a Catholic Charities volunteer. "Suddenly they're listening to every word [Krcal] is saying, and they're finally hoping. When he left, he made these people feel vulnerable and worthless."
But Krcal was on to a new frontier -- specifically, Brace Avenue in Elyria, where he was to be the money behind a six-home construction project.
At least that's what his partner, Aspen Builders, thought. Krcal and Aspen had each put $20,000 down to purchase the lots. Under the pact, Krcal would provide the up-front money for permits and construction; Aspen would build the homes. Together, they would pay off the land and profit when the homes were sold.
After three months, Aspen partners Colin Widmar and Jeremy Falkowski had built six houses, but Krcal, their wealthy partner, was slow in paying them back for labor and supplies.
Aspen soon discovered that Krcal had used a $10,900 company check, which Aspen had earmarked for a building bond, to pay restitution in the Harmon case. Krcal had also been charging personal expenses to Aspen's credit card. Though the project seemed doomed to buckle under the weight of its debt, Krcal nonetheless encouraged real estate agent Joanne Winkler of Realty One to keep selling property.
Widmar and Falkowski were worried that Krcal would squander homeowners' money, so they slowed construction. They realized that, as partners in the project, they too would be responsible for Krcal's debts. They waited to get one last reimbursement check. One Monday morning, they were gone.
"We pulled out of his office, and we warned every [home buyer] we could, and we saved our butts," says Widmar. Still, Aspen lost $60,000.
The day after fleeing, Widmar filed a criminal complaint against Krcal for credit card fraud and theft by deception. He and Falkowski invited Winkler, Krcal's real estate agent, out to lunch in June 1999. "We said, 'You're working with a criminal.'" According to Widmar, Winkler told them she would examine Krcal's record at the Lorain County Courthouse.
Within days of their conversation, Krcal was arrested, and Winkler bailed him out. She also posted bond for Dodak, Krcal's treasurer, who was arrested after bouncing a $100,000 check written to a particularly clamorous Factor-It victim.
Widmar was stunned by Winkler's loyalty. "Clay talked her into believing in him, not us." (Winkler declined comment for this story.)
But the latest arrest caught the attention of Ken McCallister, Krcal's probation officer, who worried that Krcal and Winkler would embark on yet another real estate scam. He asked a Lorain County judge to stipulate that, as a condition of Krcal's probation, he "discontinue any association with Joanne Winkler."
Krcal, of course, had already shown little inclination to abide by judicial decrees. Besides, a probation officer has hundreds of cases to look after. So no one noticed when Krcal and Winkler joined forces on another development, this one an entire subdivision.
Winkler -- whose attorney claims she had no knowledge of the court order -- found a 140-acre soybean field in Eaton Township. She knew the owner, Michael Sauter, wanted to sell, but he also wanted to avoid the capital gains taxes that came with a large down payment.
So Krcal showed Sauter a forged note from a New York bank; it stated that he had $2.5 million in an account. Sauter deeded the land to Krcal for just $5,000, though it was valued at $1.5 million. Krcal promised to pay Sauter a percentage of every home sold in the new subdivision, which would be called Clayton's Pointe.
By then, Winkler had joined Century 21 in North Olmsted. The company was only too happy to hire the exclusive agent of a new development, since it would get a cut of every home she sold. Winkler's attorney, Bob Williams, maintains his client was too busy selling to be aware of Krcal's scheming. And even Krcal admits -- in a roundabout way -- that he intentionally kept a low profile.
"My lawyers said, 'Clay, you need to stay away from the project,'" says Krcal, who corresponded with Scene from jail. "'If anybody found out you have a convicted felon as CEO of a company, they're going to get worried.' And that's why I never accepted any money, never wrote any of the checks."
Indeed, Dodak's signature is on every KDR Holdings check. In exchange for his work, Dodak was to share handsomely in the profits of Clayton's Pointe. (He did not respond to interview requests.)
Krcal had everything else he needed: a deed in his name, a Century 21 agent, and a partner to write checks. The only thing left was for the customers to roll in.
Bobby and Pat Rolen's small south Cleveland home teems with the possessions that accumulate over 23 years. They always knew they would have to move eventually. Bobby ran his own fence wholesaling company, yet the couple resisted extravagance. Now they had the money.
In a newer, bigger house, Pat wouldn't have to go to the basement of her parents' home to play the organ. The parents and organ could just move in with her. "We wanted a bigger house, and then we'd all just live together," says Bobby.
One day the couple drove past Clayton's Pointe, scribbled down the number, and called KDR. Joanne Winkler gave them the pitch, but the Rolens were already convinced. They asked to meet the developers.
"They're a couple of good guys," Winkler beamed. "You'll like them."
KDR Holdings CEO/Chairman Clayton J. Krcal kept a modest office in North Olmsted, filled with carpet samples, blueprints, and a property map. He greeted the Rolens wearing jeans and a button-down shirt. He didn't like looking like a businessman, he told them.
The map of Clayton's Pointe, broken into lots, showed pins marking those that were sold. A framed Plain Dealer article heralding Krcal as a warm-hearted entrepreneur hung over his desk. Krcal told the couple it had been written during his stint as a college professor. He also explained that he was fabulously wealthy and was just becoming interested in land development, though he recently completed a successful project in Elyria.
"What a great guy. He's down-to-earth." That was Pat Rolen's first impression of Krcal. "He's a self-made millionaire."
After Bobby handed Krcal a check for $5,000, the down payment on his home, Krcal gave him the official welcome: a Polaroid snapshot.
"Everybody that's a customer, we take their picture, because we're all going to be like family," Bobby recalls Krcal saying. In fact, Krcal had wanted for himself the very lot the Rolens picked out -- though he'd gladly relinquish it. Dodak and Winkler also intended to buy property on the same cul-de-sac. "They said, 'Hey, we'll be neighbors,'" recalls Pat.
The Rolens wanted to build a house larger than the others in Clayton's Pointe, but they vowed not to spend more than $400,000. It would be hard to stay under that price, Krcal said. Still, he pledged to do it -- though he would need an extra-large deposit.
Bobby wrote a check for $120,000. In exchange, Krcal gave Rolen what he said was the first mortgage on the property. But the mortgage wasn't his to sell. Until Sauter was fully paid, he maintained the first mortgage, meaning the Rolens technically owned nothing.
It was December 15, 1999. The Rolens were told their house would be ready by July 2000.
About that time, Kelly Nagley, a Toledo woman, met a rich, beguiling man with an exotic life story. Clay Krcal told her he was a land developer visiting his Toledo office; that he once played in a band that opened up for R.E.M.; that his mother was Indian and spoke no English; that he attended a culinary arts school in Paris.
Krcal insisted on buying her extravagant gifts. Nagley got flowers, dresses, a Rolex. He bought her mother a kitchen table, helped her brother finance a car, and through his contacts in the construction industry, assigned a crew to build Nagley a huge back porch. For her birthday, he told her they would fly to Puerto Rico.
Recently divorced, Nagley was flattered -- and just a bit suspicious.
Doug and Sharon Martin wanted a bigger house and a bigger yard. They weren't prone to splurging, but Doug bought a new riding mower in anticipation of his grassy acre in Clayton's Pointe, to which he'd committed $25,000.
Debbie and Ken Purdy took their time deciding. They checked the Better Business Bureau for reports on KDR Holdings. There were none. They felt safe with Century 21, and they had established a rapport with Winkler. The couple gave KDR $27,400.
Winkler knew that Timothy Jenkins, her distant cousin, was looking for a new home. She recruited him for Clayton's Pointe. Jenkins and his wife gave KDR $30,000 for a down payment on the only new house he ever planned to build.
Winkler told each of her clients that the money would go into escrow. It didn't. Every penny -- about $351,000 between the 13 families -- went into KDR's savings account, where it didn't last long.
"The money was spent on past debts, paying criminal defense attorneys, paying off cars, contractors, guitars -- and they just pocketed some of the money," says prosecutor Kasaris. The victims of the Factor-It scam also had to be paid back. "They raised it off the backs of [the Clayton's Pointe] people," he says.
Winkler's attorney, Bob Williams, says Krcal told his client the money was in escrow. Krcal denies this. "She knew everything," he says.
But those who thought they had purchased new homes remained in the dark. All winter, they drove past the property, looking for progress. The landscape hadn't changed.
Growing restless, some checked the records to make sure the land was in Krcal's name. It was -- at least in deed. Little did they know that Sauter still technically owned it.
Others went to the courthouse in Elyria to inquire about permits, which were late. Krcal explained he was waiting for EPA approval -- a mere formality -- to begin digging the sewers and putting in roads. "His whole angle was to make things cloudy so he could buy time," says Jenkins.
Some asked about the escrow accounts. So Dodak called Gateway Title Service Agency of Brecksville to arrange them, though much of the $351,000 had already been spent.
"If I put $10 in each account, and they ask you for the balance, do you have to tell them?" Dodak asked, according to the affidavit of Escrow Officer Michelle Torchia Kynkor. It struck her as an odd question. "I said, 'Yes, we do.' And that was the end of that conversation."
One by one, the homeowners found out who they were dealing with. The Rolens faxed their mortgage to an attorney. When he phoned back, he told Bobby, "Kiss your money goodbye." Rolen felt ill.
It was, in fact, too late for everyone. By February 2000, around the time the roads were supposed to go in, Winkler finally decided to report the scam to Cesareo.
"She said she works for these guys who are taking deposits on homes and not giving the money back," Cesareo recalls. "She felt guilty, because these guys were ripping people off."
By this time, however, the scam was complete. KDR had spent every dollar entrusted to it. Its account was actually overdrawn by $1,500.
Six of the 13 couples who bought homes sought to settle immediately with Century 21. Most recovered about two-thirds of their money.
The remaining seven, including the Rolens, the Martins, and the Purdys, enlisted Cleveland attorney Hal Pollock and filed suit against Century 21. Were it not for the realtor's name, they say, they never would have chanced an investment with unknowns like Krcal and Dodak.
"It's OK," they say Winkler repeatedly told them. "You're dealing with Century 21. You're safe."
Winkler, however, claims the greater mantle of victimhood. "She was more of a victim than these other people," says Williams, her attorney. "She gave up a year of her business life to promote something that she believed in."
The paper trail shows that Winkler received $15,000. Yet Williams says that's a tiny fraction of what an agent usually makes in a year.
In her statement to Cesareo, Winkler said she always knew Krcal didn't own the land free and clear. If so, the Rolens wonder why she would have allowed them to purchase a first mortgage on the property. "I can't comment on that," says Williams. "But [Krcal and Dodak] probably told her something she believed."
In March 2000, when Krcal and Dodak arrived in court for Krcal's sentencing in the Aspen credit card case, Cesareo was there to arrest them for the Clayton's Pointe scam. Winkler was arrested on a Sunday morning, handcuffed in front of her family while she cooked waffles and eggs. All three were indicted on felony theft charges. The charges against Winkler, however, were eventually dropped in exchange for her testimony.
Dodak was sentenced to 17 months in prison.
Krcal's case was delayed. He was supposed to appear for a pretrial hearing on March 31, 2000, but he called from a highway to tell Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold that he had been in a car accident on his way to court. The judge was unmoved. If he didn't show, Krcal was told, he would be arrested.
He jumped bail and disappeared.
Just when Krcal needed a place to hide, Kelly Nagley got wise to him. On her birthday trip to Puerto Rico, Krcal stiffed the hotel. A jeweler told her the Rolex Krcal gave her came from Mexico. A repo man took back the table Krcal bought her mother. Nagley's brother almost had the same thing happen to the car Krcal helped him finance. Then Nagley received a $5,000 bill for the new porch Krcal had purportedly built for her.
There were other revelations. Krcal once arrived at Nagley's home driving a jeep littered with another woman's clothing. "He told me, 'I love you so much,' and I said, 'Listen, I know you're married, and I know you're also seeing someone else in Toledo,'" recalls Nagley.
A stranger knocked on her door one day, asking to see Krcal. The man told Nagley that he wanted back the $2,000 he gave Krcal for the property next to her home.
The last time she saw Krcal was in March 2000, just as the Clayton's Pointe scam was crashing. "He had this worried look on his face constantly," she says. "It was like he was suddenly going to get caught at something."
Nagley told Krcal to stop coming around.
A fugitive, Krcal fled to Rhode Island to surprise a woman he had met on the Internet. He took up residence in the woman's home, and it wasn't long before he started making money again.
Krcal convinced a friend of the woman that he could make her a winner in the stock market; she ended up losing $60,000. (The Cranston, Rhode Island police eventually charged Krcal with theft, though detectives refuse to discuss or release information on the case.)
He might have found more victims, if Cesareo hadn't tracked his cell phone calls. Krcal was finally located in July of last year and arrested in Rhode Island. He was shipped back to Cleveland.
Despite her ex-boyfriend's behavior, Nagley still accepted Krcal's phone calls from the Cuyahoga County Jail. His wife had filed for divorce, but Krcal told Nagley that she was the woman on his mind. He begged Nagley to wait for him to be freed, and even in jail he showered her with daisies and jewelry. Nagley told him to stop and began refusing his calls, but the gifts kept coming.
She was surprised he still had money to spend while in jail. But when another inmate phoned, she discovered his source of funding. "Some guy named Jerome called me up," she says. "He's cussing me out, saying, 'You've been ordering flowers from my sister's credit card.'"
Somehow, Krcal had obtained the credit card number of the man's sister. He had set up a bank account in Nagley's name and was using it as a repository for his jailhouse scams. Nagley, as it turned out, was also being billed as the attorney Krcal referred to when he promised fellow inmates he could deliver probation. They were wiring money to the account in her name.
Nagley says she never touched the account. But upon learning they'd been duped, the inmates began calling her. One called to see whether Krcal had received the law books the man had ordered for him. Another told her that, if he ever found Krcal, he'd kill him.
Yet Krcal apparently made friends who could protect him.
"This guy calls me, and he says, 'Why don't you listen to Clay? He's a nice guy,'" says Nagley. Then the man added, "We're working on those motherfuckers in the other cell block. They're trying to kill Clay."
Since entering jail, however, Krcal's biggest con was reserved for securing his liberty. He cozied up to other inmates in hopes of hearing their confessions, then turned the information over to prosecutors in exchange for lighter treatment. One, James Middleton, was accused of murdering his wife, an executive with the Cuyahoga County Mental Health Board. Middleton and Krcal became fast friends, only to have Krcal show up on a witness list for the prosecution.
But he also took some significant missteps. In November, he wrote two letters to Scene, claiming his innocence and alleging corruption within the Cuyahoga County justice system. To prove his point, he claimed he would be giving $50,000 to Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold and another $50,000 to an unnamed attorney who could "make my case go away."
It's unclear how the bribery allegations might have helped Krcal, though the letters may simply have been an attempt to impress fellow inmates, an extension of his pay-for-probation scam. Either way, they didn't help.
In June, Saffold threw the book at Krcal on the Clayton's Pointe charges. Though he pleaded guilty, she nonetheless sentenced him to 16 years in prison -- and provided him with a tongue-lashing in the process.
Saffold was informed of Krcal's bribery allegations the day after sentencing. The judge seemed amused. "I gave him the maximum sentence on each count, so that doesn't sound like somebody's been bribing me very well. What a creep!"
Krcal seems to finally understand there are few people left who are willing to believe him. "If I were sitting in my office wearing my $1,000 suit, or if I picked you up in my Jaguar, I am sure I would have a great deal of credibility," he wrote in a letter to Scene. "But the facts, as they are now, are that I am an inmate."
Yet even behind bars at the Lorain Correctional Institution, Krcal hasn't given rest to his scheming. It's just that now he claims to be partnering with law enforcement, not avoiding it.
"They have a term in jail called 'crunching,'" says Krcal. It means testifying that he heard another inmate confess to a crime. He says county prosecutors "told me that, after I got the information they needed, that this would be the case to set me free."
Prosecutor Dan Kasaris smiles and shakes his head. The only deal he'd ever cut with Krcal, he says, would have to include the hundreds of thousands of dollars still owed to victims.
Kasaris admits that Krcal may well have the money for such a deal. After all, he's made tons on the scams that are known. There could have been others. There could also be an offshore bank account.
Tony Whisenant, the inmate who got conned out of $800 in jail, says he's heard Krcal speaking of his buried treasure.
"I know for a fact that he has money hidden away in Puerto Rico," Whisenant says. "He bought a piece of resort property in Puerto Rico, and that's where he keeps a lot of belongings stashed."
Despite Krcal's claims that he's gone legit, Whisenant says otherwise. The $800 he lost is but a fraction of what Krcal has swindled from other inmates -- and even guards.
"He was doing a lot of things for the officers in the county jail," says Whisenant. "They were constantly coming into the pod looking for him. He was doing their paperwork, because some of them had start-up businesses."
It's one thing to steal from middle-aged couples in search of new homes. It's another to rip off fellow convicts. Whisenant predicts Krcal's current sentence will prove light, compared to the sentence an aggrieved inmate eventually hands down. "It's a matter of time until someone ends up killing him in jail," says Whisenant. "The guys on the inside always catch up to you."
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