By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"All my life I've worked seventy, eighty hours a week to make ends meet. At the time when I met Chiffon, I was trying desperately to think positively. So when she said she could invest my money, I thought, `Why not me?'
"And why not me, damn it?"
Hovey withdrew a $5,000 cash advance from her Visa in two increments, giving Chiffon checks each time. Chiffon signed a note saying she would pay Hovey $10,000 on July 17. Hovey has yet to see a dime. "The reason Chiffon gets away with this shit all the time is that she does that `two for one' deal, and no one will come forward because they're afraid they'll get caught doing something illegal. But mine wasn't that way--her uncle was supposed to be an investor or something, and he was good at it," Hovey says. "Now my life is all messed up.
"One time I asked Chiffon if she was my angel, and she just looked at me and said, `No, I'm just the opposite.' It's the only time Chiffon ever told me the truth."
Hovey has had to downsize her business, cutting the shop she owns into thirds and taking in rentals. She was almost unable to buy a car because her credit card was maxed out; she has spoken with the police, who told her the case was civil, not criminal. But she doesn't have the money to pay for a lawsuit.
"Do you know how fast interest charges accumulate on a $5,000 cash advance?" Hovey says. "The worst part is, I totally lost my self-respect for being so stupid. I'm determined to make 1995 the complete opposite of 1994."
Hovey did try one last time to get her money back--the day Chiffon was arrested at the International. When she arrived at the restaurant, Hovey met Gottdenker and Richter, who were watching Chiffon being taken away. They looked like they had just been shot. "We started to talk to each other," she remembers, "and then all of us realized maybe one of us was on Chiffon's side. So we stopped talking. Then we looked at each other again and realized we had all been screwed."
The International wasn't Chiffon's first restaurant. "I had a restaurant in Miami, and I had some financial problems," she says. "People were stealing out of the restaurant, and I ended up having out $2,800 in checks that I couldn't cover. They hit the district attorney's office all at once, and--bam! There I was, in trouble again."
According to the Metro-Dade County police department in Miami, Chiffon was arrested thirteen times--sometimes only months apart--from March 1976 through July 1982 for issuing worthless checks. She was convicted in 1980 for felony forgery and served a twelve-month sentence. Six months later she was arrested again, this time for 52 counts of writing worthless checks, for which she received a felony conviction and a ten-year sentence.
Chiffon now claims the whole problem rested with her probation officer, who she says never posted her restitution, which led the judge to throw the book at her. "I am glad this is finally coming to light," she says. "Judge [Bruce] Levy gave me six months' probation, during which time he said I had to make restitution. I paid the whole amount in three months. But the court clerk told him he had not received a penny from me, and the judge said `ten years.'"
Five of those years were for violating probation on the 1980 conviction, and five were for failing to make restitution. But Chiffon served only seventeen months.
"Thank God for the State of Florida," she says. "They have a fantastic system. They have what's called `incentive time,' where if you work eight hours a day, they reduce your sentence." She never filed a complaint against the probation officer, Chiffon adds, because it would have taken three years. "I had just served seventeen months. What did I need to waste my time on that for? The whole thing came down to, if I hadn't been arrested, then the restaurant would have been a success. That's always the problem."
And the problem arose again a few years later after Chiffon moved to Colorado and hooked up with a restaurant in Lakewood. Her felony conviction in 1987 for attempted forgery and fraud stemmed from incidents at the former Borquez Mexican Restaurant, at 9822 West Girton Drive. According to the Jefferson County Court case report, Chiffon, using the name "Marjorie Stoughton," signed a contract with the owner, James L. Borquez, to purchase the restaurant within six months of October 3, 1985, and to manage it during that six-month period.
Before the six months were up, however--and after Chiffon had changed the restaurant's name to La Casserole--Lakewood police arrested Chiffon for investigation of writing worthless checks that totaled $5,013.12. On February 16, 1986, Richard Israel filed a report with the Lakewood Department of Public Safety, relating how he had been told by Marjorie Stoughton that Borquez was willing to sell his restaurant for $5,000 in cash. Stoughton asked to borrow the money, Israel reported, saying she could repay him when funds arrived from France. He gave her the money in exchange for a contract she signed stating that "in the event that payment is not made within 5 days of due date Marjorie Stoughton agrees to transfer licenses including liquor license of the Borquez Restaurant to Richard S. Israel for payment of loan." In his statement, Israel said that Stoughton gave him two checks, each for $2,500, that were drawn on closed accounts. He also said he had tried repeatedly to collect and was finally told that since Stoughton did not own the restaurant and Borquez had never received the money, he would have no recourse but to take Stoughton to civil court. Israel is on record as having identified Chiffon as Stoughton in a photographic lineup.