At the time of her 2016 arrest, Dwen ‘Eddy’ Curry had defrauded her way to more than $6 million dollars. The enigmatic Detroit native had built a duplicitous life that began in deep poverty, but led to her serving as a stylist to the stars on one end, and master fraudster on the other.
“I was flossing with celebs while fleecing trust funds,” she shared.
It all started when she moved to Oakland, Ca in her early 20s to seek substance abuse treatment, and after getting clean, was quickly able to land a hotel receptionist role. The position gave her regular access to customers’ credit card and personal identification information, opening up an entirely new world for Curry. A fast, flashy and dangerous one.
“I learned how to memorize card information, then would purchase expensive items like airplane tickets and stuff for people at a fraction of the cost,” she told ESSENCE.
In a short time, word got around to inner circles and Curry was able to rake in $50,000/month from the airplane ticket racket. The cash was flowing in so swiftly, Curry quickly realized she’d need a “front” to launder the money through. So she started a hair salon, which aligned perfectly with her stylish sensibilities. The name of the business also belied Curry’s ironic sense of humor: Just An Illusion.
“We were the hottest salon in Oakland in the 90s,” she told ESSENCE, sharing that because of her warm personality, the city’s biggest tastemakers were all clients.
“Tupac used to roll through, city commissioners, Too $hort, all of them. We were making money hand over fist.” As glamorous as life had become, the lavishness made her a target for envious onlookers. It also didn’t help that her outsized persona preceded her.
“Everybody thought I sold drugs so I became a target for stick-up kids,” she explained. “They also knew I was gay, so they thought they could try me all the time. That’s when I realized I had to be around people who wouldn’t blink twice at my lifestyle.”
A short time later, Curry relocated to LA and became a wardrobe stylist to the stars, quickly building a clientele that included Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Da Brat and LisaRaye among many other celebs.
“I was building a life outside of trapping I could really be proud of,” she said, which included her transgender transition, a decision Curry grappled with as she continued to explore her gender identity. “This was really a time I felt like I was where I was supposed to be…but that other side of life kept pulling me in.”
After taking some time away from her credit card scam activity, she eventually found herself returning to that world. She’d need the extra cash to continue bankrolling her lifestyle as well as her family’s, who she was the sole breadwinner for. It was then she began retirement fraud, wiring hundreds of thousands at a time from IRA accounts she’d gained access to.
“I felt horrible because I was taking up to like, $350,000 at a time from people who worked for it, but I was in too deep at that point.”
She was able to secure millions until an informant tipped off authorities, which eventually led to her arrest for one felony count of identity theft and one count of attempted grand theft in 2009. Curry served four years in federal prison after striking a deal with the authorities which was on the lighter end as identity theft offenses of that kind can carry sentences up to 30 years.
Curry’s journey was captured on BET+’s second installment of American Gangster: Trap Queens, which explores the stories of women whose lives were once filled with criminal activity.
With that part of life now behind her, Curry is on a mission to educate perpetrators and potential victims about the pitfalls of thievery.
Nearly 84,000 Americans reported new account bank fraud in 2021 compared to about 51,000 in 2020, according to the FTC as reported by The Motley Fool. Debit card, electronic funds transfers, or ACH jumped by 8% in 2021 in comparison to 2020.
“The allure of the flashy lifestyle is just not worth it,” she shared with ESSENCE. “I lost so much, not just money but really valuable relationships because of my actions. But I take full responsibility.”
Ahead of the holiday season when scamming is at an all-year high, she shared some key tips shoppers can use to keep their finances safe.
This may sound obvious, but Curry advises people to keep an extra close eye on their money, physically and digitally.
“When you’re out, don’t lay your purse or wallet down unattended EVER. Someone could either snatch it or get a glance at your credit card information and use it later,” she said. People are hungry and they move fast. You won’t even realize what happened until it’s too late.
Safeguard your information with an identity theft alert.
Since a large part of Curry’s scamming activity consisted of gaining e-access to credit card accounts and personal retirement funds, many of the victims weren’t made aware until it was too late. She says that people should stay one step ahead of potential fraudsters by utilizing services like Life Alert to keep users abreast of potential threat.
Avoid oversharing online.
A huge reason Curry says she continued to commit fraud was to maintain a glitz lifestyle many of her celebrity clients lived. Similarly, she shared that younger generations are falling into the same pitfalls she did decades ago, heightened by social media.
“Don’t floss on Instagram for people because they are watching and waiting for you to slip up,” she warned. “That’s how you wind up being a target for a stick up or something far worse. Learn from me, the looks aren’t worth it.”
Overall, although it was a tough road, Curry said she takes full responsibility for turns her life took.
“No one made me do everything I did, but make no mistake I served my time. Now, the only thing I can do is move forward and rebuild.”