It’s been more than five years, but I can still remember feeling the hot flash that coursed through my body the moment I realized I had barely escaped being scammed out of $1,000. The ruse had been so persuasive, so meticulously crafted, so professional—yet more than a sense of relief, I felt embarrassed. I was also very, very angry.

It was that unpleasant experience, and a few others before and after it, that made me understand, even just a little bit, how Danielle Shoots, Regan Byrd, Brenda Herrera Moreno, and so many other Coloradans likely felt when they began to comprehend the level of deception they say they encountered at the hands of a person they thought they could trust—a man who went by the name Aaron Clark.

In this month’s “The Mysterious Mr. Clark,” associate editor Chris Walker not only details the alleged financial crimes Clark committed as the CEO of a Denver startup called Equity Solutions, but also delivers answers to the questions so many Centennial Staters have been asking since Clark vanished in late 2022: Who was Aaron Clark, and where did he come from?

It took Walker the better part of a year, but he tracked down court records, found old email addresses, reached out to victims from other states and countries, waded through ancient Yelp reviews, and used Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to make clear Clark’s murky past. “Yes, it took some digging,” Walker says, “but if someone had really wanted to know who Aaron Clark was—say, an investor who was going to fund a startup—that person could have found out that Clark had a seedy past. If someone had done the research, it might’ve prevented a lot of heartache.”

Instead, Clark left a trail of hurt and angry people, some of whom are owed money and all of whom want answers. Walker may not be able to give them all of the explanations they desire—and deserve—but he has thoroughly unriddled the riddle of Aaron Clark.

André Carrilho

Illustration by Arthur Mount

For more than 30 years, Portugal-based artist André Carrilho has been creating illustrations for outlets such as the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. His work, which often depicts humans with exaggerated facial features, has won more than 100 awards, and Carrilho is set to publish a children’s picture book featuring his art next year. When he gets an assignment, Carrilho often starts by writing down initial thoughts in his phone and then goes for a jog. “Usually after five kilometers, I have plenty of ideas,” he says. Drawn to Carrilho’s high-energy style and fluid lines, 5280 art director Dave McKenna enlisted the illustrator to create the opening art for “The Mysterious Mr. Clark.” After reading the story for the first time, Carrilho compared scammer Aaron Clark’s deception methods to those of Frank Abagnale Jr., the fraudster who inspired Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. “It’s not often that I read something that really grabs my attention, a story so unbelievable and the product of real, hardcore reporting,” he says. “That’s becoming rare.”