Clyde B. Pitchford Jr. likes the good life. The 31-year-old stockbroker maintains adjoining penthouses, drives, or is driven in, expensive cars, flies to London to see his tailor, and invests in horses, restaurants and real estate.
"Clyde used to drive a Mercedes," recalled one of his customers at E.F. Hutton, where Pitchford is -- or was -- a top young account executive. "But he complained that he didn't like driving a car 'like everyone else,' so he bought the biggest, longest Jaguar he could find."
But a few days after he got the Jag, Clyde stopped at a traffic light and glanced at the car next to his. It was identical. "That's when Clyde got his first Rolls," the customers said.
Tales of the bachelor broker's life style surfaced following news reports that Pitchford has disappeared. He was last seen Feb. 12, fittingly, at the elegant Sherry Netherland Hotel, where he stayed on trips to New York.
Initial worries about foul play -- his passport and personal belongings were found in the room by hotel personnel who became concerned when Pitchford failed to pick up his messages for several days -- have largely been replaced by suspicions that Pitchford has fled in the face of growing civil and criminal investigations of his finances.
Several major Virginia banks are seeking court help to recover about $1 million loaned to Pitchford in the last year, and he is being sought by the FBI and the Richmond prosecutor.
"I assume he's on the run," said Aubrey M. Davis Jr., commonwealth's attorney for Richmond, whose office got a search warrant for Pitchford's side-by-side 15th-floor suites at the Berkshire apartments in downtown Richmond, where Pitchford maintains an office with a secretary and living quarters.
Robert Dean, acting special agent in charge of the FBI's Richmond office, said the agency is investigating a complaint of alleged bank fraud and embezzlement, based on a report that Pitchford allegedly used forged documentation to get a bank loan.
Pitchford's reputation as a generous supporter of cultural and political causes -- his credentials include serving as president of the Richmond chapter of the American Red Cross -- apparently permitted him to get many of the loans without putting up security.
On four of the loans, he put up automobiles as collateral: a 1983 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, which was repossessed for nonpayment on a $134,000 loan; a 1965 Lincoln, a 1969 Mercedes and a 1974 Jeep.
According to state records and news reports, he paid for $8,500 worth of clothes last year for GOP gubernatorial nominee Wyatt B. Durrette, liked to drop $100 bills into the collection plate at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and belonged to an alumni group whose members give at least $1,000 a year to the University of Richmond, from which he graduated in 1977.
While Pitchford is described as a loner, he has prominent business associates, including State Sen. A. Joseph Canada (R-Virginia Beach) and three nationally known equestrians.
A spokesman for E.F. Hutton in New York declined to comment on Pitchford except to say that the company is cooperating with federal and state investigators. One news report said Hutton is checking into 10 accounts handled by Pitchford, involving investments worth $700,000 to $1 million.
The brokerage firm issued a statement Wednesday saying that "should any claims arise, they will be handled in an expeditious and proper manner."
The Bank of Virginia has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to declare Pitchford and one of his private corporations, the Rex Group Inc., involuntarily bankrupt. He is being sued in Richmond Circuit Court by Central Fidelity Bank, First Virginia Bank-Colonial, Bank of Virginia and his attorney, Edward C. Trope Jr., who says Pitchford owes him $100,000 in fees.
Many of Pitchford's finances are tied up with Rex, a Delaware corporation in which his partners are Canada and Hugh Wiley, a former Olympic equestrian. Pitchford's association with Canada, who is a Republican candidate for Congress in Virginia's Second District, dates from 1977, when Pitchford, fresh out of college, was a volunteer driver in Canada's unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor.
Canada is vice president and Pitchford secretary-treasurer of Rex, state corporation records show. The president of Rex is Wiley, who lives at Oak Hill Farm in Fluvanna County and was a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic equestrian team.
Its directors are George H. Morris of Red Bank, N.J., and Palm Beach, Fla., another former Olympian and a premier trainer of young riders, and Bertlelan DeNemethy of Far Hills, N.J., a longtime coach of the U.S. equestrian team.
The company's investments include condominiums in Virginia Beach and the Wintergreen ski resort in Virginia and the Ocala (Fla.) Jockey Club. Rex purchased a majority interest in the jockey club Aug. 1 from Mid-state Federal Savings and Loan Association of Ocala.
Mack Dunwoody, president of Mid-state, said condominium units at the 1,200-acre town house development sell for about $245,000 and include space for six horses.
Pitchford was elected to the board of the Florida Center Bank in Orlando in October but was voted off last month, an action that bank officials declined to explain.
Those connections have prompted authorities to concentrate on the Sunshine State in their search for Pitchford.
Friday night, the FBI unsuccessfully attempted to find and arrest Pitchford, who was thought to be in Florida, on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. The Richmond News-Leader reported that Richmond prosecutor Davis has obtained a warrant charging Pitchford with larceny.
"Clyde lives like a character out of 'Dynasty,' " said a friend. He said that last spring at the Strawberry Races, a social event for the horse set, Pitchford "spread an Oriental rug on the ground next to his Rolls and had a couple of guys serving drinks and hors d'oeuvres from sterling trays.
Pitchford "gave the impression that his parents were loaded," the friend added. But a visit to the house in Norfolk where he grew up revealed, in the words of his mother, that "we are simple people."
Ruth and Clyde Pitchford raised two girls and a boy in the big frame house on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay in the Ocean View section of Norfolk. "Two-thirds [of the furnishings] in this house are from him," she said, motioning around the modestly appointed residence.
"C.B.," as his parents call the baby of the family, is a "wonderful son" who spent many hours with his mother while his father, a salesman for a chemical company, was on the road. The last time Pitchford's family heard from him was in a valentine card, mailed from New York, they said.
Ruth Pitchford said she does not recognize the description of her son as a flamboyant high roller sought by investigators.
"C.B. was very vague about his business dealings in conversations with his family," said Reeves Mahoney, an attorney retained by the family to handle inquiries about their son. "He has a good education. The only disappointment he ever had was that he didn't become a minister," Pitchford added. "He's a sacred boy."
"Something's wrong," she sobbed. "He wouldn't not call his sister on her birthday [Feb. 16]. He wouldn't forget his mother."