Ex-journalist issues warning after being scammed

“I’m embarrassed to say this out loud, but it’s the truth. I was helping an Irish heiress get her inheritance. I fell for one of the oldest con artists in the book”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The holidays are when scammers are really on the prowl, but what happened to one man could happen to anyone at any time of the year.

Former journalist Jonathan Walton fell victim to a woman claiming to be an Irish heiress. And, dozens of alleged victims include residents of Tennessee.

He told ABC24 everything and how you can protect yourself.

Walton has been touring the country promoting her “Queen of the Con” podcast. The stories he shared are better than fiction; and he said even he wouldn’t believe it if it didn’t happen to him.

“I did what 90% of scam victims never do. I made my story public and it turned out to be the recipe for stopping my scam artist in his tracks,” Walton said.

It also helped him uncover victims all over the United States and around the world.

Walton and his neighbor, MairSmyth, became very close, very quickly.

“I started telling her about my family and how they disowned me because I was gay and she jumped up. She said her family had also disowned her.”

Walton said she dined with her husband at fancy restaurants and bought them lovely gifts. That’s when he alleges the master manipulator was already at work, trying to convince him that she had a slice of a $25 million inheritance and that his powerful family was trying to stop him. to get it.

He said she showed him text messages and emails, as what she called “evidence.”

“I’m embarrassed to say this out loud, but it’s the truth. I was helping an Irish heiress get her inheritance. You know, I fell for one of the oldest con artists in the book.”

During their four-year friendship, he admitted he loaned her thousands of dollars to help her get her inheritance.

While Walton was being scammed, he didn’t know he wasn’t the only victim. A prison visit revealed almost everything about MairSmyth, whose real name was Mary Ann Smith.

“She’s in jail for grand larceny. She pleaded guilty to stealing $200,000 from a travel agency, and I was like that’s not what she told me, like nothing in Her case wasn’t right. She lied about everything. Her bank accounts were never frozen. There’s no family. Like, everything is a scam just to get money out of me,” said Walton.

Fed up and frustrated, he turned himself in to the police and said the investigators had turned him away; tell him it’s not a crime because he gave him the money, and take the matter to civil court.

Using pages of evidence, text messages and emails, officers then opened an investigation.

Walton went further and went public, then he found dozens of victims in multiple states; Florida, Michigan, California, New York and right here in Tennessee.

Each reached out to Walton to share how she allegedly groomed and scammed them as well.

In many cases, many were too embarrassed to talk to the police and too embarrassed to tell us.

Walton says, “The scammers don’t outsmart you. They feel you more. They get into your heart very quickly. That’s the point of becoming friends. Every victim she scams. She offers to help.”

He says he is grateful for this experience because it made him a true investigator.

Now he’s helping other victims along the way, bringing their crooks to justice. Walton wants you to know that to avoid becoming a victim, you need to recognize the signs.

“They come into your life quickly. They’re the new girlfriend or the new boyfriend. They’re the new co-worker. In my case, they’re the new neighbor.”

He says, then comes praise, gifts, then suddenly they are in trouble and need help, but don’t.

Smith was found guilty and sentenced to five years, but has now been released from prison due to the pandemic and moved out of California. She still has several cases against her in other countries.

You can stream Queen of the Con now on Apple iTunes.