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— Another neighbor says that shortly after Bickerstaff moved into the gated neighborhood two years ago, he threw a welcoming party for himself and his wife. "They were very nice and cordial. She seemed a lot younger than he and was very attractive, nicely dressed. I wouldn't say overly flashy, but you can tell when people have money. She was very nice, an outgoing lady. I remember she mentioned that 'one reason we can't have kids is because of our lifestyle.' Traveling all the time and not being in one spot or something like that."

Reports from the Bay Area say that Bickerstaff's wife, Traci, claims to know nothing of the alleged scam her husband was running and is still living in their five-story home on a hill in Mill Valley. A report from a Scottish newspaper said the mansion last week appeared to be empty.

Bickerstaff's previous spouse, Mary Beth, lives in nearby Tiburon with their two children in another house owned by Bickerstaff. According to a 1986 report on the society pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Bickerstaff and Mary Beth Greisofe were married in September of that year in a ceremony at the now-defunct Atlantis restaurant near Sea World. The account said Mary Beth, whose parents lived in El Cajon, was attending ucsd at the time. The paper also reported that "the bridegroom, a 1982 graduate of London University's Birbeck College in England, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. David Bickerstaff of London. The couple took a wedding trip to Mexico. They live in La Jolla." Messages left for Mary Beth at her house in Tiburon went unanswered.

No one contacted who said they knew of Bickerstaff could say exactly what he did for a living in those days, but state records show that he had a license to sell insurance. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that Bickerstaff had previously lost that license and was fired by Prudential Securities in 1991 after being accused of forging clients' signatures to get bonuses and writing phony checks and ledger statements. In 1995, the paper reported, Bickerstaff was fined $50,000 by the National Association of Securities Dealers and barred from working as a broker after another forgery incident. That same year, the state Department of Corporations also barred him from working as an investment advisor.

None of those sanctions, however, stopped Bickerstaff from racing his horses at Del Mar when he wasn't running his company, bfa Financial, out of several well-appointed rooms in a Rancho Bernardo office building. Bickerstaff's elaborate Web page, which was still operating last week, says that "Donald moved to the United States in 1984 to become a financial consultant with one of the country's top financial companies. He founded Bickerstaff Associates three years later. Since then the firm has grown to provide advisory services for client assets in excess of $250 million dollars." According to the Web page, "Bickerstaff Associates offers a comprehensive program of financial and estate planning. Our mission is to offer clients integrated financial planning that provides them with long-term economic security."

A British newspaper, the Scotsman, reported last week that Bickerstaff was best known for "splashy black-tie parties, such as his Christmas event at an expensive San Francisco hotel last December. Hundreds of moneyed professionals would attend his events, often in limousines. 'They were really polished and lavish,' said one guest who attended the Christmas party. 'I've been to the White House, and this was top-cabin all the way.' The alleged con man would typically make a speech too, with the same smooth talk and quick answers that brought business to his company."

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