The Eddie Show: Season Finale

In case you are just tuning in, be sure to read The Eddie Show: Episode 2

…and now back to our program.

Clare began with the Alderman and told him our story. And the Alderman called the Police Commander and told him our story and the Commander assigned his best detective to the Sisters. “Because what we have here,” the alderman told him “is a monster.” What we also had was a Friday followed by a holiday on Monday, so from the very beginning the process was choppy. But, the Alderman also called the State Senator and told him our story and the State Senator, on the weekend, called the Attorney General, at home, and told him our story – and so we had our workaround. Make no mistake, we were assured, Eddie was on the AG’s radar. Which somehow was not reassuring at all.

The detective and a uniformed officer arrived at the cottage within hours of Clare calling the Alderman. And that’s when we learned our first little bit about the law. Eddie had taken our money, but he’d also performed just enough “work” – and I use the term loosely – that we were looking at a civil matter, not a criminal matter. The police concern themselves with criminal matters; this matter would require reaching out to the Attorney General’s office – the “People’s Attorney.” Before the police team left we also found out that the rap sheet we’d pieced together paled in comparison to the full report they had accessed before even knocking on our door.  Before the police left they also gave us guidelines on how to handle ourselves if Eddie showed up – let’s just say it was how to open a window, not the door. Because Eddie showing up, when we were still unsure how to conduct ourselves, was a major concern. We did not want him anywhere near the cottage but we also didn’t want to tip our hand – not until we’d had some guidance on how to handle ourselves.

The detective and the uniform were both impressed with the amount of investigative work Clare had already completed and asked her what was to become a standard query in the coming weeks. “Are you a lawyer?” they asked, as she provided names and dates and details for each element of the unfolding drama. What I am she said is a business woman with 20 years of international IT consulting experience. What she is, I proudly thought, is an organized, disciplined, problem solving woman in business – who just happens to make deodorant. But equally critical to the task unfolding I quickly realized would be Clare’s natural talent and experience as a community organizer. Our community was being scammed and, to the best of her ability, Clare was determined to protect our community.  

So, as we waited for the long weekend to play itself out, Clare focused on our local online mommy group and Eddie’s creation of a fake identity within that closed group to promote his services via glowing but fake referrals. Clare realized that with online mommy groups being very widespread she’d need to reach out to her wide pool of friends, former classmates, cousins, and colleagues and ask each one of them if they were part of an online mommy group in their community. And they were; and, sure enough in each group – you guessed it – Jessica Muñoz and her friendly referral service. With Clare’s steady guidance, her connections in 13 different Illinois communities reached out to the administrators of their local groups and quickly shut down Jessica Muñoz a/k/a Eddie’s gravy train. The additional work of then scrubbing each of the fake referral threads from these websites was even more grueling and Clare’s decades-long experience in IT came in very handy.

We were blessed that within our friends and family network we also had access to guidance from an experienced former prosecutor turned judge who walked Clare step-by-step through the process that was going to play out in our lives. We also had access to a highly-respected broadcaster who knew that the team at WGN News was going to want to cover our story. With the wide reach of WGN News and the stellar reportage of Marcella Raymond our private saga went very, very public. Neighbors became curious when WGN’s branded van pulled up in front of our house and remained there for hours. And WGN was not alone. A brand new to the Chicago market but very intrepid young reporter with CBS, Marissa Parra, had independently gotten wind of our story and pushed us to give her a shot at it as well. So, we had our very first experience of how to handle an exclusive – or in our case, how to give one news outlet a head start but not an exclusive. Each report aired within days and each directed their viewers to their website for details on how to contact the Attorney General’s office – or if they preferred, the Sisters. Clare knew the ins and outs of setting up a hotline and had that invaluable tool ready for any reach outs. Within minutes of the news airing messages began appearing on the hotline.

Annie single-handedly met all the demands of running the business while Clare worked virtually around the clock to keep up with the unfolding drama. My job was to keep calm. I didn’t excel at it; but, I had seen myself on TV for enough minutes that I was now on a diet and that kept me busy preparing undressed salads and chopping celery sticks. That and listening with my sisters to the extraordinary and maddening stories as Eddie victims reached out to the sisters for solace, information, and an end to their isolation. Each family felt tricked, stressed, angry and frequently ashamed that they had been played. And so, Clare offered the only two things she could: a listening heart and encouragement to not give up.

The sympathy was easy to provide. Each story was unique but they all had trademark Eddie features. And in each of their stories, we heard our own. Eddie’s repeated attempts to get everyone to trade in their appliances and replace them with better versions from Eddie was a common thread. Appliance fraud is one of Eddie’s specialties. Luckily, we had not responded to Eddie’s constant insistence that we trade in and trade up with Eddie. Folks who had done so shared horror stories about faulty appliances that were dropped off without interiors, leaking carbon monoxide and worse. And there was no getting back the perfectly good appliances that Eddie had graciously “taken off their hands” – good friend that he was.

Eddie tears off back siding

In every case Eddie pushed for big deposits so things could move quickly only to return with completely incompetent workers who would wreak havoc for an hour or two, then never return. Driveways were partially torn up and then abandoned for weeks leaving elderly customers unable to pull up to their own doors and so they fell in their yards – at last count six falls. We counted our blessings that our actual “Eddie work” had been comparatively small. Victims who patiently waited weeks and months and for whom the work had finally gotten done were left with shoddy results at best: patios that drained into their homes; exterior doors hung so askew that they could not be closed; antique doors removed for refinishing and never returned; garages torn down completely but never rebuilt; siding removed and never replaced; and plenty of theft as well – in the case of one wealthy victim close to $100,000 worth of timepieces. The financial losses to families were all over the place, from hundreds to many thousands.

The psychological impact of Eddie varied as well. Slowly we began to realize that Eddie had carefully researched his victims – sometimes in terrifying detail. The minute anyone challenged Eddie on shoddy work, or more commonly no work at all, the charming salesman became the obscenity screaming thug. Young and old alike experienced his profanity-laden reactions. He was not above threatening people’s children by name and anti-Semitism was a hallmark of his vile pushbacks. He had critical details on where people had gone to school, and what had gone wrong with their first marriage, and why they might want to check out the possibility of their husbands having a girlfriend! Really, with Eddie the bullying and threats ran the gamut. We’d gotten off easy in this regard. Only after the fact did we put two and two together to see how even a perfunctory skim of our extensive and story-rich website allowed Eddie to customize his pitch to our Irish Catholic/sister solidarity/survive against the odds/cottage industry/lemons into lemonade values. Or as Eddie liked to say, it’s not about the money for me ladies. We’re all here on a spiritual journey. We’re all here to help each other. So just call me Cousin Eddie – we’re family now! All delivered with his winning smile while he caressed the heavy gold crucifix ever present on his thick neck. Eddie always seemed to have just been to daily Mass or be on his way to the Adoration Chapel for some quiet time with the Lord. It was too late when we realized finally that the Catholic Sacrament Eddie most needed to be pursuing was Confession.

Clare’s guidance to the victims was simple. Everyone needed to file a report immediately with the office of the Attorney General. They were very aware of Eddie and were busy preparing their case against him.  Every credible victim mattered and Clare encouraged each family to get their facts in order, and their photos in order, and because we live in the age of the smart phone, in many cases their videos in order as well. It will matter, she said. Even if it is not an overnight solution, it will matter.

And Clare charted every bit of information she gathered; building spreadsheets to capture every story, every detail, every dollar amount, the similarities and the differences.  Detail-oriented and practical she created a comprehensive database of names and numbers to aid the AG’s office. As victims ourselves, we also did all the proscribed due diligence, including an appointment with the city’s Elder Justice Unit, where an elegant retired lawyer talked us through our go forward/how to recover from Eddie options. He also seconded our decision to not hire an attorney. You can’t get money out of a man headed to jail – but the office of the Attorney General can. It might take years and it might not happen at all; but if anyone can get you a settlement from a judge, it’s the AG. So, there was that slim hope and small comfort as well.

A few days later yet another network showed up. This time it was NBC and by now we were old pros. When their reporter asked Clare at the end of the taping if she could tell our story again, on camera, in Spanish this time for Telemundo, she delivered without a moment’s hesitation. Even I who live daily with Clare’s language skills was impressed and told her so. Oh, she said, I’d practiced special vocabulary like cement truck and brickwork and stuff like that because some of the victims were Spanish speakers and I’d needed it to be able to talk with them.

But that final NBC segment never aired – or at least not yet – because a much bigger story was unfolding. Strangely foreshadowing events that were to unfold nationwide a few weeks later, Governor Blagojevich was being granted an early release from prison and it filled the news. We’re still going to air your story, NBC assured us, just as soon as this Blago story cools down. But an even bigger yet story was also barreling down on all of us. And it and it alone would fill the airwaves for weeks and maybe months to come. Overnight COVID19 entered the world’s vocabulary and psyche and dominated all the news and all our lives.

Clare on WGN Mary on WGN

WGN reported on the Ed Kavanaugh defrauding the Sisters
Click to view the WGN News segment.

The WGN and CBS segments aired multiple times and combined with social media the response was encouraging. “Hey, you’re the ladies from TV. Go get ‘em ladies!” greeted us at the grocery store and the gas pump. Clare continued her daily documenting of victim stories as they continued to reach out to us via the hotline. More than 32 families and 4 vendors, all of them stunned and strangely thrilled to see our story on TV, wanted to tell us theirs. How many others went straight to the AG’s hotline, we’ll never know.

One young father who’d lost a substantial amount of money had stumbled onto the news report and jumped up in the middle of it, screaming to his family “Get out here everybody. It’s Christmas in February!” All of them were experiencing a new-found pride in having survived Eddie. And they wanted to recover from their Eddie experience – with or without any restitution. Shame was being replaced with an urgent desire to get their story told to protect others. Justice was looking more and more likely to be delivered. With the shut-down of the online scam, Eddie was already being stopped in his tracks before the next elderly couple lost retirement money. A collective spirit fueled everyone’s willingness to do the due diligence, fill out the reports, agree to press charges and confirm that yes, they were confident they could pick Eddie out of lineup. No longer alone, we were all on #TeamStopEddie.

The TV coverage brought police investigators from the Office of the Attorney General to our cottage within days. Their questioning was a rather intimidating experience; as were the bullet-proof vests and guns and I swear the heavy boots on one of them screamed DESIGNED FOR KICKING DOWN DOORS AND ARRESTING PEOPLE. But they very cordially explained to us that the interview needed to be conducted in a very particular fashion to have every piece of information correct and untainted for presentation to a Grand Jury. And I do mean cordial in describing these two professionals. The pair of investigators from the AG’s office were my favorite people in this whole long saga.

Finally, with that interview behind us, Clare’s work organizing victims was completed and her thick binder of information lovingly gathered and produced in duplicate was handed over to the investigators – who asked if she’d ever consider joining the investigative team at the AG’s office – assuming she was already a lawyer. She’s a deodorant maker, I proudly declared. A natural deodorant maker. Which did not sit well with Clare who rolled her eyes at her big sisters and said, “I’ve worked for 20 years as an international IT business consultant, but no I’m not a lawyer.” And there you have it; our story has come full circle.

Three weeks had passed. Within days of the unfolding drama we’d written Eddie a letter informing him that we were now fully informed as to his status, would no longer be requiring his services and were now awaiting a full refund. We know it’s highly unlikely; but, you can’t fault three gals for trying. Eddie ranted and raved and did his best to trash us everywhere from the Alderman’s office to WGN News and then Facebook. He transitioned smoothly from lying to us to lying about us and after all we’d been through it wasn’t very hard to handle. Finally, the calls from victims eased up. Every mommy group we’d located had shut down Eddie and his fake mommy identity. We were getting daily reach outs from contractors who’d seen our story and wanted to come by and see if they could help. And we were back to work, the cottage in shambles around us and the spring rains due to arrive soon; but mostly we were at peace. We had survived worse; we would survive Eddie. And hopefully one day not too far in the future we would be able to share photos of our own little Fixer Upper.

We could never have predicted that our crazy February would transition into a surreal and tragic spring. The courts closed and naturally the arrest of Eddie was delayed as the Sheriff’s Department worked to empty the prisons of non-violent offenders. A pandemic was bearing down on the entire planet and surviving a criminal contractor quickly paled in comparison to surviving a potentially deadly virus. Our lives changed overnight as we learned the importance of social distance, personal protective equipment, exponential growth, and the prevention of economic collapse. Daily we chart ventilator shortages and ICU availability even as we accept that hand washing is ultimately providing our only protection from a terrifying global viral pathogen. We pray deeper and wider, living surrounded by but distanced from family, friends and neighbors who are terrifyingly vulnerable in the face of this invisible killer. Clare shops for food only once a week and strips off her shoes and clothing immediately upon return home. We triage everything entering our home and offices, following a rigid cleaning protocol as we unpack groceries and supplies. We eat more carefully than ever, and stay very busy running a business in what is now an ever more challenging economic landscape. Our vibrant city has stilled, our hearts are heavy, we distract ourselves with an hour of TV each night that’s funny or we just can’t sleep. And other times it feels like all we want to do is sleep – until this horrible nightmare has ended. We’re learning to live without touching, and to grieve without rituals or being held. But in the face of the catastrophe we are choosing to sing. Songs of gratitude and songs of farewell and songs of togetherness for the duration of this scourge.

Our Eddie days seem far behind us. We’re hampered by the pandemic as we try to assemble a new team to repair our weary home. Clare only checks the hotline sporadically but inevitably she always finds another current victim or two. So clearly the pandemic is not hampering Eddie, who has now woven governmental interference into his excuses in the time of corona. You gotta laugh.

Each night before retiring to our separate bedrooms, our separate fears and our deferred dreams, we listen to music together. And my sisters have introduced me to a beautiful song. One that speaks to how I’m feeling these days. I want to tell the world – You Matter to Me. I can’t hug you or have you over for a meal or pour you a glass of wine and listen to your stories. But oh how you matter to me. More than you can know. And we will, I know, get through this being apart time somehow until truly we are together again.

If you’d like to support our small family business during these crazy times, please consider shopping for lifestinks deodorant and lifestings bug repellent from the Duggan Sisters.

Afterword: If you have been a victim of Ed Kavanaugh, Goliath Construction, Tony Arana, Jessica Munoz, or any of his other aliases, please file a report with the Illinois Attorney General. If you would like to contact the Kavanugh Victims’ Hotline via email or phone (312) 600-5350.

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6 Responses to “The Eddie Show: Season Finale”

  1. Aimee Bass says:

    Wow! I read your story just now and am so proud of you for standing up to this guy and following through to save others. That makes me feel good and I hope it helps you too to move on from this horrible experience. I was scammed in a similar way by a roofer years ago so I know the feeling, but also the satisfaction of seeing his license taken away so that he could no longer prey on seniors and women. You have done well sisters! Keep us posted on any updates and in the meantime, take care and enjoy the music! We will rise!

    • Mary Duggan says:

      Hello Aimee, Thanks so much for reading our Eddie Show blog. I am sorry to hear you had your own experience with a scammer. It’s just such a waste of time and money and energy. I will feel better when the weather changes and we can hopefully continue to make repairs to the cottage. And until we are certain he has been brought to justice we have to keep getting the word out. This week we got the news about his latest fake identity: Alexis Domenica – and he has infiltrated all sorts of new online mommy groups using that identity – so the work continues.

      Thank you for your faithful support of the Duggan sisters. We appreciate you so much. Please stay home and safe and well. Love, Mary and the girls.

  2. Marilyn says:

    I cried as I read this.

    • Mary Duggan says:

      Hi Marilyn, I’m sorry to have made you cry and I do appreciate you taking the time to read our Eddie Blog. But please don’t be sad. The Duggan Sisters are doing well and come summer we WILL find a way to make the repairs to our falling down cottage. I hope this finds you well. Thanks for being such a loyal friend to the Duggan Sisters. Stay home and stay safe. Mary

  3. Jim Retzer says:

    Dear Duggan sisters,
    I just finished reading The Eddie Show. What a sad commentary on the ability of one person to be so amoral. But also such a wonderful story of the spirit of survival and healing. That’s the spirit that’s going to get us through this terrible pandemic together. You ladies are awesome! Which I have known for a long time, since we met you years and years ago at a farmer’s market. We love the Life Stinks deodorant and our whole family has been using it since we met you all those years ago.
    I hope after this all settles down, Eddie will come to justice.
    Take care and stay well!

    • Mary Duggan says:

      Hi Jim, thanks for your kind words and thanks for reading our Eddie Show blog. I have to agree with you; it’s a sad thing that Eddie took his considerable skills and talents and uses them to hurt folks instead of helping folks. I have to believe that something went way wrong on the way to Eddie becoming a man. He shared with us that his father was a heroin addict who died in his arms when he was only 20 years old. I think at that point he was telling the truth – but, of course, now after catching him in so many lies, it’s hard to say. If it was true, it sure speaks to an upbringing that left him broken in lots of ways. As is so often the case. That being said, we have to make every effort to keep him “out of work” until the State puts him out of work indefinitely. We hope this blog and our other efforts do just that.

      Thanks for your continued support of the Duggan sisters and the work we do. We so appreciate it.

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