“I can help.” she said, with a charismatic sparkle in her eye.
And I was hooked.
I had no idea that she was an international con artist on the run from authorities and that I was about to become one of her many “marks”.
Over the next four years, I would fall HARD for one of the oldest cons in the book: The Inheritance Scam.
But this wasn’t some Nigerian Prince soliciting me through email. This was a delightful and lovable woman, who inextricably inserted herself into my life and became my best friend.
I’m a happily married gay man so she couldn’t use sex to ensnare me. Her techniques were far more cunning. She scammed nearly $100,000 out of me using a series of brilliant confidence tricks - as she destroyed my sense of self and irrevocably darkened my once joyful outlook.
And as she was scamming me, she was scamming dozens of others around the world by impersonating psychics, mortgage brokers, psychologists, lawyers, travel agents and even cancer victims.
While on the run, she used plastic surgery to alter her appearance and is almost unrecognizable from one crime to the next in these images I dug up.
She was a true ‘Queen of The Con’ and she unwittingly turned me into a relentless vigilante. As I somehow found the strength I didn’t know I had to pick myself up from the wreckage of bankruptcy and the despondent mess she left me in - to fight back. I refused to go ‘gentle into that good night.’
I started my own exhaustive investigation into her scams, uncovered 45 other victims and brought her, kicking and screaming, to justice.
Today she’s sitting in a jail cell in Los Angeles County wondering how on earth she became the victim - of one of her own victims.
Allow me to explain.
I’m a reality TV producer. I’ve worked on shows like American Ninja Warrior for NBC, Booze Traveler for Travel Channel and Shark Tank for ABC.
But the most spectacular reality show I’ve ever been a part of had no cameras shooting it. Just a devious con artist secretly plying her craft in the shadows. And dozens of unsuspecting victims like myself, quietly falling prey.
She introduced herself as ‘Mair Smyth’ in May of 2013.
“I can help.” she said to the angry neighbors gathered in my living room. Our apartment building had just lost use of our swimming pool due to a legal spat with a neighboring building. “My boyfriend is a lawyer and he can help us get the pool back!” she enthusiastically bragged to the rapt crowd.
I liked her immediately. We all did. She was brash. Funny. Extremely intelligent and outspoken. Ironically, she came off as a woman who always “Told it like it is.” Mair Smyth would end up scamming me, as well as two other neighbors who were there that night. We just never saw it coming.
After the meeting, Mair invited my husband and I out to dinner. And it quickly became a routine. Over the next year she wined and dined us at fancy restaurants and always insisted on paying. “I love you guys” she’d convincingly plead. “I have a lot of money let me pay!”
Mair said she was from Ireland originally and pointed to a framed document hanging in her living room, “This is the Irish Constitution. See that signature at the bottom? That’s my great Uncle.” Since my knowledge of Ireland was scant, I believed her. I had no idea it was fake.
She had a penchant for wearing Jimmy Choos, those $1200 designer shoes. She showed me a pair and then pointed to her closet which housed 250 others.“That’s $300,000 in shoes alone!” I thought to myself. But those were fake too. Projecting wealth was part of her ruse. Even her Ice Bucket Challenge video was shot by her personal “Massage Therapist”.
We’d hangout almost every evening in our BBQ area, exchanging intimacies under the cool LA sky. She’d bring me Irish tea and pastries and regale me with stories of how when she was a young girl, her Irish grandmother, who was in the IRA, would teach Mair to hide on top of a bridge and hurl molotov cocktails down on British soldiers. I was riveted. But those were all lies too.
When I tearfully confided in her that part of my family had disowned me for being gay, she pounced like a ravenous cheetah. “My family disowned me too!” she revealed, as she fought back tears. “They’re trying to get me disinherited.” All of a sudden we weren’t just new friends — we were two discarded souls bonding over our painful family circumstances.
Mair told me the patriarch of her family recently died. And her cousins were dividing up a $25 million euro estate. She was supposed to get $5 million euros as her share, the equivalent of $6.5 million US dollars at the time. As months passed, she’d frequently show me angry text messages and emails from her Irish cousins threatening that she won’t get a dime and ask me, “How should I respond?”
I didn’t realize she actually created those online phone and email accounts herself to impersonate her “cousins”.
Mair said she left Ireland years before and took a lot of family money with her. She never needed to work. But claimed she enjoyed working. So she got a job selling luxury vacations in Los Angeles at Pacific Islands Travel. She said her family did a lot of business with them and that’s why she was able to secure employment there so easily.
14 months into our friendship Mair Smyth and I were like brother and sister. “I love you” was how we ended each phone call. She told me her “barristers” were hitting snags trying to secure her inheritance. I had to google what a “barrister” was. Turns out, It’s what they call lawyers in Ireland. “Barristers" Nice touch huh? The “barristers” warned her about a clause in her Uncle’s will that stated: should any family member be convicted of a felony they would forfeit their $6.5 million inheritance.
Mair Smyth was brilliantly laying out the exoskeleton of her con in such exquisite detail that what happened next was truly unbelievable. Instead of her telling me the con, she got me to tell her!
“You better be careful” I cautioned. “Since your family does a lot of business with the travel agency you work for they might try and set you up to get you convicted of a felony to keep your inheritance!”
A few months later. My phone rings.
“You have a collect call from: ‘It’s Mair’ an inmate at The Century Regional Detention Facility, press one to accept” the computerized voice said that July 8th day of 2014.
I quickly pressed ‘one.’
“You were right!” she sobbed. “I was arrested today. My family set me up to make it look like I stole $200,000 from Pacific Islands Travel.”
“I told you this would happen!” I yelled into the phone. I was distraught. I quickly found a bail bondsman and paid him $4200 to get her out of jail. That’s when I first learned that her legal name was ‘Marianne Smyth’ not ‘Mair Smyth’.
She paid me back the $4200 the very next day. Or rather, the married man she was dating at the time paid me back the next day. Little did I (or he) know - she was in the process of scamming him out of $80,000.
As months passed, she’d show me emails from her “lawyers” talking about how the bogus criminal case against her was falling apart. I had no idea those were from fake email accounts she created too.
Almost 3 years into our friendship, she told me the DA in her case froze her bank accounts. She was devastated. So I started lending her money. I mean, she had already paid me back the $4200 I used to bail her out of jail. So I felt ‘confident’ she’d pay me back any other money I loaned her.
The term “con artist” is short for “confidence artist” because they skillfully use your ‘confidence’ in them to scam you.
Over the course of several months I loaned her almost $15,000. You’d think I was worried. But I wasn’t at all. I thought I was about to be best friends with a millionaire. At least, that’s what all the emails from her “barristers” said.
Suddenly, Mair called me one day and said the DA was now demanding $50,000 for his expenses to dismiss the criminal case against her. I didn’t have $50,000 in cash. But I did have an 840 credit score. So I let her charge my credit cards $50,000 to get the criminal case against her dropped so she could secure her $6.5 million inheritance and pay me back.
A few months later, I was shocked to find out Mair Smyth was heading to jail again. But I’m guessing you’re not at this point.
She said the judge in her case considered her charging my credit cards “money laundering” and punished her with 30 days in jail. It was just a “slap on the wrist." she insisted. It was not a felony. She assured me, as soon as she gets out she’ll get her inheritance and pay me back in full. And showed me emails and texts from her lawyers as proof.
She called me collect from jail everyday and begged me not to visit her. “I don’t want you to see me like this.” But I insisted. So I logged onto the jail’s website to schedule a visit and that’s when her house of cards came crashing down. And the true devastation she wrought on my life started to reveal itself.
It said on the jail’s website, plain as day, that she was arrested for “Felony Grand Theft”. This was no slap on the wrist.
I took the day off of work and rushed down to the courthouse. With trembling hands, I started reviewing all the records from her case. The truth hit me over the head like a lead pipe. She was lying to me about everything.
I suddenly couldn’t breath.
That $50,000 I let her put on my credit cards was to really pay a $40,000 guilty plea agreement to a felony grand theft charge for stealing more than $200,000 from Pacific Islands Travel.
I discovered the prosecution did not freeze her bank accounts. There is no wealthy Irish family or inheritance. She's not even Irish. Those were all lies she used to scam me.
I went home and collapsed in my husbands arms. I didn’t cry. I wailed. As the pain and regret washed over me like a slow-moving hurricane. “How could I let this happen to us?” I rhetorically sobbed over and over again. My tears drenched his shirt. I was inconsolable.
Eventually my raw ache and pain was replaced by a driving anger and rage to,“Do something!”
First, I confronted Mair in the parking lot outside our apartment building the day she was released from jail. I told her I knew she wasn’t Irish. I knew no one froze her bank accounts. I knew there was no inheritance. She emphatically denied everything. “That’s not true, Johnathan! That’s not true!” she pleaded over and over again as tears streamed down her face.
But I had finally learned that those tears, like everything else in her life, were a complete fabrication. And I was done believing anything she had to say. I balled up my fists. Clenched my jaw. And walked away. We never spoke again.
I went to the police days later in March 2017 and filed a report. The officer interviewing me seemed skeptical that there was anything they could do. “Don’t give strangers your money” were his parting words.
So I started my own investigation.
I discovered Mair Smyth was born poor as "Marianne Andle” in Maine and graduated from Bangor High in 1987. I dug up her yearbook. She later moved to Tennessee, where as a young woman, according to her estranged family, she told everyone in town she had breast cancer and scammed her friends and neighbors out of thousands for “treatments”. They said Mair was oddly obsessed with wanting to be Irish. So much so, that back in 2000 she went to Northern Ireland on vacation and ended up staying 9 years and marrying a local.
I started an online blog about what happened to me and realized; In the same way that wooden stakes kill vampires and silver bullets kill werewolves - internet publicity kills con artists. I began turning my pain into a profound sense of purpose; a calling from God, as Mair’s other victims from all over the world began contacting me.
A Police Detective in Northern Ireland called me. Authorities in Belfast have been looking for Marianne Smyth for years. She worked in mortgages back in 2008 and scammed $500,000 from 26 people - then vanished.
The wealthy guy she was currently dating called me. Mair was in the process of drawing up paperwork for him to add her name to the title of his two Newport Beach homes - in exchange for her adding his name to this $12 million mansion she was about to “buy” with her $25 million “inheritance”.
She scammed $10,000 from another victim by impersonating a psychologist.
And conned an LA politician out of $80,000 by impersonating a wealthy industrialist, a former mistress and some angry Irish relatives.
She even tricked our landlord out of $12,000 in rent by pretending to have cancer.
I did some sleuthing and discovered Mair did have low blood iron and would purposely avoid iron-rich foods so she could strategically get admitted into hospitals for Iron transfusions. While sitting in a real hospital bed for a few hours, she’d ask a nurse to take her picture and then email that picture to victims to better sell her cancer story. She used this cancer scam a lot.
Other victims pointed me to Mair’s still active “SugarDaddyForMe” profile where she’d enter into arrangements with married men who’d pay her a monthly fee for sex. Then blackmail them when they tried to end the relationship.
Mair Smyth used 23 different aliases to scam people. In this video she goes by"Mair Aine" as she tries to convince people she's psychic. Yup! She worked as a psychic for years scamming the most vulnerable of victims, using their inner most secrets and confidences against them. She’s also been charged with felonies for Fraud and Grand Theft in Florida and Tennessee under the alias “Marianne Welch”.
The Los Angeles Police Department spent 11 months investigating my case. I called them every day and became a huge pain in their ass. When you’re the victim of a crime, if you don’t call the police every day about your case, your paperwork gets buried under a thousand other cases and eventually gets forgotten.
Finally, in early 2018 she was arrested and charged with scamming me. And then released on her own recognizance - which was a huge mistake because one month before trial, Mair had another brilliant con up her sleeve: She filed a fraudulent restraining order against me; claiming I was threatening her with violence. I was forced to lose another $1500 to her scams by hiring an attorney.
"If a judge grants her the restraining order, you would be prevented from testifying against her at her criminal trial." the attorney explained. I was apoplectic.
'Could this be her checkmate move?' I feared.
Thankfully, a prudent judge dismissed her fraudulent restraining order. And her criminal trial proceeded as scheduled.
Four victims testified against her at trial in early 2019. And a mountain of irrefutable evidence was presented by the prosecution. Smyth shockingly did not testify in her own defense.
As witness after witness told the court how she scammed them, she sat there emotionless. And that was probably her biggest ‘tell’ to the jury. As brilliant an actress as Marianne Smyth proved herself to be while she was conning people - remarkably, she did not know how to “act” innocent.
Even when TV News cameras confronted her months before trial, she appeared remorseless.
The only defense her slick attorney made to the jury, ad nauseum, was that I was making the whole thing up and getting all the other witnesses, people I didn’t even know before Marianne Smyth scammed me, to lie under oath, so I could make a compelling documentary about it. It appeared as if one professional liar was indeed representing another. And he was terrifyingly believable.
He asked me on the stand why I was making a documentary. "I want to warn people about her." I responded stridently. "By the time I'm done with Marianne Smyth, the world will know her face so she can never scam anyone again."
Testifying at trial was particularly grueling, as the DA went point by point over each dollar Mair scammed from me. Having to re-live that in front of a jury of strangers blinded me with a searing rage and at times filled me with an all-consuming regret. I was an emotional wreck.
I spent 2 years doggedly pursuing Marianne Smyth. It consumed me and took a considerable toll on my life. I had to file for bankruptcy because of what she did to me. And the 24 court appearances I made before the actual trial meant I had to miss a lot of work and lose even more money because of her. Not to mention the cost of hiring 6 private investigators in multiple states and countries to ferret out all her scams.
But damn, it was worth it.
Out of the 45 victims I uncovered during my investigation, only 2 of them ever reported her to police. And that enabled her to continue scamming people years before she met me. Most of her victims are too ashamed to tell anyone what happened to them. I’m ashamed too. But my desire to stop her from hurting other people is much stronger than my shame.
I’m forever changed by my experience of getting conned by Marianne Smyth. I’m now suspicious of everyone and everything. I subscribe to multiple criminal databases and I background check EVERYONE. I often will suss out even the most minuscule inconsistencies in someone’s story upon meeting them and throw it in their face, demanding an explanation.
Making new friends is not something I’m good at anymore.
If you’d like to avoid entanglements with con artists, my advice to you is this: The next time a complete stranger offers to ‘help’ you with something… Tell them to go fuck themselves.
BEEN SCAMMED? E-MAIL ME: TheConHunter@gmail.com
Or Call/Text 213-394-2488
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