By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
In return, Anderson says Caldwell gave her a promissory note, which guaranteed that he'd repay her double her investment--$6,000--in six months. "I knew this guy; he was a friend," she says today. "I didn't even question that he'd pay it back."
But as the months wore on and she didn't hear from Caldwell, Anderson says she began to feel uneasy. Her discomfort was confirmed when she called him a week before the money was to be repaid. The two agreed to meet for lunch--and a day later, Caldwell canceled. They haven't spoken since.
"He just blew me off, just totally blew me off," she says. "He didn't even care that he didn't have the money."
In November 1992 Caldwell filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy using the name Focus Publication. A month later the filing was tossed out of court because Caldwell insisted on representing himself in the proceedings. Although that is allowed in many instances, a non-attorney may not represent a corporation in bankruptcy court.
Today Anderson has yet to see her money even though she--like Lastick--received a court judgment against Caldwell. Her attempts to collect have run into empty bank accounts. The one time Anderson attempted to garnish Caldwell's bank account, for example, he "changed banks," recalls attorney Egan.
According to state records, five months before filing bankruptcy on Focus Publication, Caldwell started a new company. Focus Journals, Inc. was incorporated in June 1992.
By all accounts, the paper Caldwell began publishing next, the Denver Medical Journal, was the most successful of his attempts. According to his business plan, the Journal "was established to fill a niche--a void of in-depth information about health care and health care issues geared to the audience that most needs and desires that information: the rapidly aging American." The first issue came out in the summer of 1992 and, although one or two were missed, it continued to come out through the beginning of 1994. Caldwell claimed a readership of 40,000.
That didn't mean that everything was going swimmingly in the company's South Galena Street offices, however. In fact, Caldwell was going through staffers like old newspapers. The reason was familiar.
Leona Birsa says she was hired as an office manager and writer for the Journal in June 1992. A few months later, she says, her paychecks began bouncing. She quit in January 1993.
Oliva de Castanos was hired as the Journal's executive editor that same month. "It became obvious pretty quick that the checks would bounce," she recalls. "Everyone in the office didn't anticipate payday; we dreaded it."
Several employees say they fought Caldwell on nearly every paycheck from last summer on. In one attempt to get their money, de Castanos and another employee, Jayce Keane, cashed their checks at Safeway and King Soopers. They bounced, and now both women say their credit at the stores is ruined.
De Castanos quit in October 1993. Two months ago a Denver County court awarded her and Keane a total of $2,500 in back wages. Like many others, however, they have yet to see their money.
On March 16 Caldwell filed for the third time for protection from his creditors under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He lists $3,500 in assets and $68,000 in debts, including one familiar creditor: the Internal Revenue Service, to which Caldwell owes more than $26,000 in payroll taxes. (Because the IRS declines to disclose documents on individual cases, it is unclear whether the agency ever collected the money Caldwell owed from his 1990 bankruptcy.)
According to the court documents, Caldwell also owes $1,800 to the Journal's last editor, Sarah Ellis--who says it is time for Caldwell to close up shop for good. "When your priority is not to pay the government or your employees," she says, "it's time for you to get out of business."
Those who worked with him up through his latest business flop say Caldwell already is planning his next venture, a direct-advertising business called Flair Mail. According to his business plan, "Flair Mail for Women is a direct response program designed for women 35+ who live in Colorado and earn $35,000 and up."
Despite Caldwell's success at eluding his debts for the past several years through the federal bankruptcy court, he may be running out of luck--although through no doing of the bankruptcy court. The numerous people he has burned have begun getting in touch with each other, commiserating and swapping war stories over the phone.
Most damaging for any of Caldwell's future endeavors is that this group has made every effort to contact those who have--or might--go into business with the erstwhile publisher. "Little by little we came to realize that he was not dealing with anyone fairly," says Keane. "Now we just want to stop him from hurting anyone else.