Hookin' for Dollars

Candy Gail Wilson knows how to work the street.

The prominent Scottsdale businesswoman long ago mastered the art of manipulating emotions to obtain cash.

She has no problem stiffing business partners.

Her associates embrace similar ethics.

And when the heat is on, she knows how to slip into the night unscathed.

The traits have come in handy for Wilson during the last five years as founder and chief executive officer of Arizona Capital Group, a stock brokerage and investment banking company.

When it came time to raise money to start Arizona Capital, Wilson turned to a mourning widow and obtained $90,000. The stock she gave the woman in exchange is now worthless.

When she wanted to expand her business, Wilson entered into a purchase agreement to buy another widow's stock brokerage company. Once she got control of the firm's clients, she reneged on the deal, refusing to pay a dime for the company. The dispute is now in court.

Her company allegedly allowed brokers to conduct unauthorized stock trades to rack up hefty commissions and then ignored complaints.

And, when the party ended with the stock market slide, Wilson slipped quietly out the door.

She sold Arizona Capital -- the company that she has claimed is worthless -- on August 1 to CGS Blackwater Corporation. According to the new co-owner, Norman E. Clarke, Wilson has left the state but will remain as a part-time employee working as an investment banker.

Meanwhile, Arizona Capital remains mired in litigation and a swirl of nasty allegations of illicit drug use and employees who tote automatic weapons. Former employees say they fear for their lives because of the grungy details they carry in their heads.

During the wild ride, Wilson and her brokers raised several hundred million dollars for start-up companies, several of which evaporated faster than an August shower on a tin roof.

Regulators, including the Arizona Corporation Commission's Security Division, were clueless about the eroding situation at Arizona Capital; even though the firm failed to file required audited financial statements the last three years, the commission took no action.

Wilson didn't follow the typical career path in becoming founder and CEO of a brokerage firm.

The 47-year-old brassy blonde never graduated from college.

She never worked for a major stock brokerage house.

She learned her early business lessons not on Wall Street, but the cold streets of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

For more than two years, Wilson worked the streets and massage parlors of the Twin Cities as a hooker.

Wilson declined to be interviewed for this story. But public records, her sworn deposition in connection to a civil suit and more than a dozen interviews with associates shed light on her past and present business life.

Wilson's seedy background didn't stop her from becoming the owner of a stock brokerage because she was never convicted of a felony. And it certainly didn't get in the way of her biggest, and most spectacular, business venture.

Soon after starting Arizona Capital, Wilson also became the CEO of an Internet service provider that -- ironically -- filters pornographic Web sites. Wilson's brokers at Arizona Capital raised more than $3 million for the Internet company with the perfect name -- Mayberry USA.

Mayberry USA was supposed to be the answer to every parent's fear: how to keep smut, hate and offensive materials from appearing on their kids' computers while cruising the Internet.

The idea attracted attention. Wilson cut a short-lived deal with former Phoenix Suns coach and Mormon family man Danny Ainge to promote the Web site. Other high-profile religious and conservative leaders were also attracted to Mayberry USA, including Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell and former U.S. attorney general Edwin Meese.

Mayberry USA declared itself as the "first, moral permanent settlement in Cyberspace."

Wilson, the streetwalker turned porno-prevention queen turned moral philosopher, was Mayberry's biggest promoter.

Wilson and her brokers zeroed in on investors who liked the idea of an Internet company that would keep smut out of the home.

But no sooner had millions of dollars been raised than Mayberry USA collapsed, triggering outcries from investors alleging they were deceived by Wilson and Mayberry USA promoters.

Wilson's partner in Mayberry USA was New Orleans businessman Richie Martin, a former broadcast communications broker. Martin is credited with coming up with the Mayberry USA name. The couple obtained a trademark on the name and hit the streets.

"I want Mayberry to be a place where the good guys win and the bad guys get run out of town," Martin told the Chicago Tribune.

It appears the opposite has happened.

October 18, 1979. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty