Mair Smyth claimed to be a descendant of Irish royalty when she scammed Johnathan Walton.
Mair Smyth is currently serving jail time for scamming TV producer Johnathan Walton, among others, out of nearly $100,000.
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In a piece for HuffPost, Walton, who is a reality television producer based in Los Angeles, shared the wild encounter he had with Smyth and how he eventually got her to put behind bars.
How did a gay man (me) get conned out of almost $100,000 by a promiscuous straight woman? This piece I wrote for the...Publiée par Johnathan Maseda Walton sur Vendredi 16 août 2019
The two first met in Los Angeles 2013 and quickly moved from being just neighbors to “best friends,” Walton says.
Smyth would constantly treat Walton and his husband to fancy dinners, often telling the couple that she had plenty of money, money which she brought with her when she left Ireland and that she enjoyed treating her friends.
Bizarrely, Smyth had a strange fascination with wanting to be Irish - so much so that she crafted a persona that was based upon having been raised in Ireland.
Walton writes: “Mair told us she was originally from Ireland and one night she pointed to a framed document hanging in her living room. ‘This is the Irish Constitution,’ she said. ‘See that signature at the bottom? That’s my great uncle’s.’”
Walton said: “Since my knowledge of Ireland was scant, I believed her. I had no idea that like her shoes, that tale was also fake.”
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He describes how intricately Smyth fabricated her lie: “Mair brought me Irish tea and pastries and regaled me with stories of how when she was a young girl, her grandmother, who was supposedly in the Irish Republican Army, would bring her to the top of a bridge and teach Mair how to hurl Molotov cocktails down on British soldiers. I was captivated and horrified. But her stories about her family were all lies too.”
Walton would later find out that Smyth was actually born and raised in Maine before moving to Tennessee. It was 2000 before Smyth ever even visited Ireland; while there on vacation, she married an Irish man she had previously met online and lived in Northern Ireland for nine years.
Most of Smyth’s elaborate scam hinged on her nonexistent family in Ireland. Walton says: “Mair told me that an uncle, the patriarch of her family, recently died and her cousins were dividing up an estate worth 25 million euros. She said she was supposed to receive 5 million euros ― the equivalent of $6.5 million at the time ― as her share of the inheritance.”
However, Smyth convinced Walton that her cousins were actively trying to have her disinherited. She produced fake emails and texts to show Walton to make her story seem legitimate.
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At the time, Smyth was working at a travel agency; despite being so “wealthy,” Smyth told Walton that she enjoyed working and that the travel agency worked closely with her family.
When Smyth began to weave her lie about her family disinheriting her, Walton warned his friend that her family may frame her through her work at the travel agency.
Of course, Walton’s warning became true - kind of. Walton recounts how one day in July 2014, Smyth collect called him from jail.
“You were right!” Walton says Smyth told him over the phone. “I was arrested today. My family set me up to make it look like I stole $200,000 from my job.”
Walton didn’t think twice about paying the $4,200 to get his best friend out of jail. Smyth even paid him back the next day - only it wasn’t her money she paid him back with, it was the money of the married man that she was dating, who she was also actively scamming.
Out of jail, Smyth continued to weave her lies over the next several months, producing fake emails from lawyers in an attempt to prove to Walton that their case was falling apart and she was in the clear.
“Then, almost three years into our friendship, she told me the district attorney prosecuting her case had frozen her bank accounts. She was devastated. So I started lending her money. She had immediately paid back the $4,200 I used to bail her out of jail, so I felt confident she’d pay me back any other money I loaned her.”
Over the next few months, Walton loaned his friend nearly $15,000.
“You’d think I’d be worried about giving her that much money but I wasn’t. At all. She was not only my best friend but she claimed she was about to inherit millions of dollars ― at least that’s what all the emails from her ‘barristers’ said ― so I never even considered the idea that anything sinister could be taking place.”
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Then, Smyth told Walton that the District Attorney wanted $50,000 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 the $50,000 on my credit cards using her PayPal account to get the criminal case against her dropped, thereby opening the pathway for her to secure her $6.5 million inheritance and pay me back.”
A few months later, Smyth was arrested again. She told Walton that the judge in her case considered her PayPal account charging Walton’s credit card “money laundering” and she was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Walton wanted to go visit his friend in jail, but Smyth refused, saying she did not want him to see her like that. Undeterred, Walton logged on to the prison’s website, and Smyth’s lies soon unraveled.
Online, Walton learned that Smyth - whose real name was actually Marianne Smyth - was in jail for grand felony theft.
The following day, Walton went to the courthouse to read up on the person he thought was his best friend. Turns out that Smyth had been scamming people all across the country. She wasn’t Irish, and there was no inheritance coming her way.
“That $50,000 I let her charge on my credit cards was really to pay $40,000 as part of a plea agreement to a felony grand theft charge she faced for stealing more than $200,000 from the travel agency she worked for. Had she not been able to come up with that $40,000, she would have received a five-year jail sentence ― not the measly 30 days she actually served.”
When she was released from jail a month later, he confronted her outside of their apartment complex. Still, she denied the truth.
In March 2017, Walton filed an official police report against Smyth, but the police were wary of the case and said little more than “don’t lend your money to strangers.”
Intent on bringing Smyth down, Walton started a blog in hopes of connecting with other people Smyth had scammed. It worked, and he discovered people from all across the country who had gotten caught in Smyth’s crosshairs; most were too ashamed to ever go to the police.
Among her other scams, Smyth pretended to be a psychic (she filmed the below video as a promo for her services), as well as a cancer patient, to fool people into giving her their money.
“I even got a call from a police detective in Northern Ireland. He told me authorities in Belfast had been looking for Marianne Smyth for years. The detective said she had worked as a mortgage broker in 2008 and had scammed many other people and then vanished.”
Walton learned that Smyth had concocted at least 23 aliases while scamming people.
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In 2018, the police finally arrested Smyth at the halfway house that she was hiding at. She initially attempted to file a restraining order against Walton - which would have prevented him from being able to testify during the trial - but the judge didn’t grant the order.
In early 2019, Smyth’s trial began and saw four of her past victims testify against her. Walton admits that it took a lot of time, money, and effort to get not only to the trial, but through it.
“But, damn, it was worth it,” he says.
“On Jan. 9, 2019, Marianne Smyth was found guilty of scamming me out of $91,784. She was sentenced to five years behind bars.”
Walton hopes his story will serve as a warning to others: “I hope others can learn from my experience with Marianne Smyth and, by reading my story, avoid being swindled themselves. If you meet someone new whose backstory is filled with drama and intrigue, or even just really unusual circumstances (especially if there’s money involved), there’s a good chance they’re trying to scam you. You might not ever encounter someone as conniving or cunning or deceitful as I did, but confidence games are more common than you think and your entire life can change because you have trusted someone who wants what you have and will stop at nothing to get it.”
* Originally published in August 2019.