Swindler leaves trail of broken hearts, empty wallets
Patti-Ann Finlay, W5
Published Wednesday, March 2, 2011 3:36PM EST
Caron Oderbien, the subject of a W5 10-month-long investigation, wasn't easy to find. But then again, that should come as no surprise; she is, after all, a grifter.
Our search for Oderbien began shortly after receiving an email in January, from Roger Gipson, an electrical contractor, from Gananoque, Ont.
The 57-year-old contacted W5 about a woman who he claimed had taken him for more than $100,000. Gipson says she suddenly disappeared and left him broke.
At first, we were skeptical. Gipson's story could simply turn out to be a relationship gone bad. We had to do some digging to find out if Gipson's story was true and to see if there were other victims. We discovered that, in the span of 10 years, Oderbien had made her way across five provinces and two countries, leaving behind a legacy of broken hearts and empty wallets.
Court documents revealed that Oderbien, a 46 year old single mother of two, had a criminal history -- including two convictions for fraud in the United States, from 2004; forgery and fraud convictions in New Brunswick dating back to 1992 offences, as well as a long list of civil litigation in Manitoba where Oderbien had been sued by several individuals, her own lawyer, and even a bank.
Among those defrauded by Oderbien were two more men -- Daryl Lowenberg, from Grenfell, Sask., and Craig Carpenter, in Denver Colorado -- conned by Oderbien, just as Gipson was.
But all of that had taken place years ago. We needed to find out if she was still up to no good.
W5 learned that Oderbien had been in St Stephen, N.B., just two years ago and that residents of "Canada's chocolate town" were also trying to find the elusive woman who was now going by the name Caron Hudye. Oderbien, it turns out, commonly used aliases -- Karen Peters and Karen Cheverie were others -- as part of her schemes.
Many in St. Stephen wanted their money back after they learned Oderbien took off with cash raised for Katlyn Kent, a young teenager with cancer. Some of the money raised was supposed to go to the leukemia patient to help with her treatment costs. Instead, Kent only received a cheque for $20.
With a tip that Oderbien had left St. Stephen for Edmonton, Alta., we shifted our investigation west, beginning with a search for "Caron Hudye" in Alberta, that showed Oderbien was working at a car dealership, in the Edmonton area.
Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council records revealed our subject was licensed to sell cars, working out of a Mazda dealership, and now going by the name Caron Oderbien Hudye. But when we called the dealership, they told us she left mysteriously and suddenly in December 2009.
Then word came to us about a suspicious "charity" corresponding to an Ellerslie Road address in Edmonton.
An address search showed indeed there was a non-profit corporation registered to Hudye with the Ellerslie Road address listed.
Further searches linked the Ellerslie address to a "charity" called "Celebration of Life Botanical Gardens," purportedly set up to build memorial gardens in tribute to fallen soldiers, police officers, and firefighters. We continued to monitor the "Celebration of Life Botanical Gardens" website, over nearly five months, and it appeared Oderbien was planning another fundraiser.
Advertised as an event to raise money for the memorial gardens, Oderbien was organizing a "Ride for Troops" -- and an all-day concert at Commonwealth Stadium scheduled for July 24.
As we monitored the site we learned the concert information kept changing -- moving from Commonwealth Stadium to Edmonton's Jubilee Auditorium and then again to Rednex Bar & Grill, in Morinville, just outside of Edmonton.
It seemed the original event, as advertised, wasn't going off as originally advertised and many had bought tickets for a mega concert that ended up featuring a few local bands.
So, we decided to show up to the July 24th event and see what Oderbien had to say.
Gushing praise for Canada's soldiers, Oderbien declared ground would be broken for the memorial gardens before fall.
"We hope to break ground at the end of August or the first of September and begin our plans….we'll probably have you guys out and do a ribbon cutting for the first bit of dirt that's turned upside-down," Oderbien told CTV.
But months later, when W5 investigated the Ellerslie address, there was no sign of any garden -- no landscaping had been done and the property appeared unoccupied.
So where had the money, raised from the July 24th event, gone and where was Oderbien?
W5 scoured Edmonton to find her -- retracing her steps and whereabouts.
No one at the car dealership had seen her since December.
Visits to Edmonton addresses -- including Ellerslie Road again, believed to be where Oderbien lived -- turned up nothing. The owner had never heard of her.
Don Lien, owner of Rednex, where the fundraising concert was ultimately held, said he had also been duped. He hasn't seen Oderbien since the July event and says she skipped out with an unpaid tab.
Where had she gone? We received tips that Oderbien was in Fort McMurray, Alta. and in Kamloops, BC. We followed every lead, but nothing turned up Oderbien.
Then the most crucial tip we would receive came in an email to W5 from Gerrie Dickieson, owner of the Old Town Tavern back in St. Stephen, N.B. Apparently, Oderbien was representing herself as the owner of the tavern to convince a Camrose house seller she had assets.
According to the seller's family, Oderbien was allegedly living large in a $6 million home without paying a cent. She had convinced the home's seller she was buying the property and was waiting for assets in Germany to be realized before paying for it.
Oderbien also told the seller she owned a bar in St. Stephen -- the Old Town Tavern.
When the seller's family contacted the St. Stephen bar for verification, they quickly learned they had been duped by Oderbien and asked her to leave the property.
The Camrose intelligence was our freshest lead so far -- with the help of some local sources we were quickly able to find out what hotel Oderbien had been staying at and the car she drove.
With that information in hand, we deployed W5 senior reporter Victor Malarek and the camera crew to Camrose.
In the early morning of October 18, 2010, after trailing Oderbien in her car, our crew caught up with the elusive grifter at a Tim Horton's drive-thru in Camrose. Oderbien's window was down as Malarek approached her vehicle.
"Is there any possibility of talking to you about your charities?" asked Malarek.
But Oderbien had nothing to say. She quickly rolled up her window and sped past the drive-through window, not even stopping to pick up her order.