Illustration by Bob AulFast Eddie Allen pulled his ultimate fast one on Feb. 28. He died.
We're pretty sure he's dead, anyway. That's what a friend's e-mail said—that Edgar Dale Allen, 73, husband of prominent Orange County Republican Party official Jo Ellen Allen, passed away at USC Medical Center. He'd been suffering from heart problems, respiratory problems and cancer.
Those things definitely can kill you. But we couldn't make it to the funeral, which was set for March 4 at Lady Queen of Angels Church in Newport Beach; those who attended say the casket was closed, so who really knows? And after paging through the local press for nearly two weeks, we still haven't come across so much as a mention of Allen's death.
The omission is hardly surprising. Three years ago, Allen's case was the centerpiece of one of Orange County's most spectacular civil fraud trials. It had everything: colorful CIA spooks, jungle torture allegations, right-wing politics, infidelity, brazenly deceitful financial schemes and crusty decorated Vietnam War generals. But the politically connected Republican's case was ignored entirely by The Orange County Register, and given the briefest mention in the Los Angeles Times. Fast Eddie was the county's nowhere man.
So, knowing Eddie . . . umm . . . well, see, that's the problem when somebody lives their life as a big fat liar: you feel like a sucker for believing anything, even their death. Besides, how do you know who to mourn? Over the years, Eddie Allen told people he was a financial genius who managed the money of wealthy investors—including O.J. Simpson and Tommy Lasorda—out of offices in 10 U.S. cities with more than $50 billion ("that's $50 billion with a B," he liked to say) in offshore assets. He told them he earned a law degree at Harvard University, that he played baseball for the New York Yankees, that he had flown Air Force One for President John F. Kennedy. Most impressively, he told them that he was a colonel in the Air Force whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over Southeast Asia during one of his covert missions for the CIA, leaving him injured and then tortured as a POW until Henry Kissinger intervened to secure his release. All lies. Some astounding, others hilarious, collectively pathetic.
What raised Eddie Allen's identity issues to the next level—from Walter Mitty Complex to con man—was that he laid his lies on people to get their money. He got lots of money, millions of dollars, often from older people who had built retirement bankrolls by applying the conservative Republican values that Allen seemed to represent with his stories of patriotism, religion and political connections. When some of these investors eventually took Eddie Allen to bankruptcy court, trying to get their money back, several testified that his wife, Jo Ellen, was a part of his scam, that she vouched for his honesty and his phony military and business credentials. When the CIA took the unusual step of sending representatives to court to debunk Allen's stories, the investors won.
"This court finds that Allen was not a colonel in the U.S. Air Force; he was not shot down, captured and held prisoner during the war in Southeast Asia; he is not a Harvard-educated attorney or, for that matter, an attorney at all; and he was not the very successful, wealthy and astute businessman portrayed," ruled federal Judge Robert Alberts on Sept. 6, 2001, when denying Eddie Allen bankruptcy protection and holding him liable for $1.5 million to one group of his many creditors. "Plaintiffs justifiably relied upon such misrepresentations when investing."
Despite the judge's ruling that Allen stole millions of dollars in a scam that relied on fake business, war and espionage credentials, the Orange County district attorney's office refused to investigate. A possible explanation? The cozy relationship between the District Attorney's office, controlled by OC's Republican Party machine, and Jo Ellen Allen, the party's vice chairwoman. A court document obtained by the Weekly shows that while the DA's office blocked an investigation into Eddie Allen during the summer of 1997, it granted Jo Ellen Allen special and possibly illegal access to secret law-enforcement databases—specifically, a criminal background check on Lucinda Herdman, her husband's longtime business associate and frequent travel companion. Results of their review of Herdman—which found no record of criminal activity—were sent to Jo Ellen's fax machine at Southern California Edison, where she works in public relations.
Meanwhile, unrepentant, Eddie continued to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in Newport Beach. Through a series of legal moves—such as placing his luxury car and a Corona del Mar home in Jo Ellen's name—he claimed poverty and managed to avoid paying the more than $3 million he owes defrauded investors. Now, it looks like he's up and died.
We don't know what the eulogists said at Eddie Allen's funeral. But we've always believed the words that bounce off somebody's coffin don't matter as much as what people say while you're still walking and talking. And so we present these testimonials, culled from Weekly staffer R. Scott Moxley's interviews with the people who had the painful experience of getting to know him best, as our final memorial to Edgar Dale "Eddie" Allen. The last word on Eddie . . . unless . . . naaaaaaaaaah. Ya think?
"The worst day of my life was the day I met Eddie Allen." (William Thrash, a retired four-star Marine Corps general who financed the sale of his Newport Harbor-view home to the Allens in 1993.)
"I told the judge that Allen was a lying son of a bitch who has no conscience. He should be court-martialed." (Air Force Brigadier General Harry C. Aderholt, a CIA agent and fighter pilot who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, after testifying that Allen's claims of being a war hero in Southeast Asia were false.)
"I guess I shouldn't expect to see my money ever again, should I?" (Dr. Ted Dalton, former president of Newport University and former landlord of Eddie Allen, speaking in 2001 about unpaid rent of $14,000 and a never-repaid loan of $15,000.)
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"Eddie's just a pathetic guy who is not satisfied with himself, so he invented a war record to steal money from elderly people. It's all I can do to keep my hands off his neck." (Ed Dearborn, a decorated Korean War Marine who became a celebrated covert-operations pilot during the war in Southeast Asia.)
"It's a wonder lightning doesn't strike Eddie and Jo Ellen." (Sheryl Phelps, an Irvine High School teacher who along with her husband invested their life savings of $60,000 with Eddie Allen and lost it all.)
"Of all the people I've nailed, Allen has to be the biggest pathological liar I've ever seen. He is a master of taking nothing and making it look like something. He also has the innate ability not to flinch when he's caught in a lie. I watched him stare at legendary covert-operation generals who testified against him as if they were leaves in the wind, and he acted as if they didn't understand what an important hero he is. The guy is unbelievable." (B.G. "Jug" Burkett, decorated Army first lieutenant and Vietnam combat veteran and expert on people who impersonate Vietnam veterans for personal advantage. Network shows such as ABC's20/20 have featured Burkett's investigations. In 1998, he co-authoredStolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History.)
"I have asked you to help us in the name of friendship and the fact that we came through for you when you needed us, but your responses have been cavalier, cool, evasive and vague. . . . I am disappointed, disgusted and disturbed over our business experience and contact with you." (Lee Pickett of Port Ludlow, Washington, who was 79 when she wrote that letter to Allen in 1999—just before she and her disabled husband, John, had to file bankruptcy to save their home after loaning Allen $553,000 in 1996. The Picketts never saw their money again. "What Eddie did to us is so despicable," Pickett told the Weekly in 2001. "We are the victims. He has to be stopped from doing this to anyone else.")