Love Fraud is a true-crime thriller that unravels in real time. It follows the jilted ex-wives, fiances, and girlfriends of Richard Scott Smith on a gripping man hunt for the man who frauded them and dozens of women out of $1 million over the past 20 years
Ellen, Tracy, Sabrina, Karla, Jean, these women have one thing in common – they were all conned by Richard Scott Smith.
For the last 20 years, the serial online-dating fraudster has swindled over $1 million from a conga-line of women that he quickly wooed into marriage, only to fleece them of their meager life savings and vanish days later.
There are others too. Lisa, Angela, Jennifer, Holly, Michele, Rebecca, Crystal and Sandi; all of whom were once married or engaged (sometimes simultaneously) to the same man who used different aliases to evade the law.
With ten different social security numbers, 43 phone numbers and 58 registered addresses, Smith tore through the Midwest leaving a trail of heartbreak, debt and at least one case of assault in his wake.
So prolific were his exploits that one scorned ex launched a cautionary blog in 2014 that exposed his lies and warned other women of his scheme. The top of the web page reads: ‘Has this man victimized you?’ It became a place for his duped wives to connect.
Now his discarded spouses have united together seeking justice and revenge in a new four-part crime-thriller titled, ‘Love Fraud’ that airs tonight on Showtime at 9pm EST. Steeped in covert surveillance missions that unravel in real time, cameras follow the group of former ‘Mrs. Smiths’ on their hunt for the man who stole everything.
‘The best way to get over a guy is revenge. I’m sorry, it is,’ said Sabrina, who was drained of 95k. ‘Rick, you lying sack of s***, you f***** me. I am f*****. Buddy, I’m coming after you.’
Ellen, Sandi, Tracy, Sabrina (left to right) are a few of Richard Scott Smith’s exes who were conned out of their crucial life savings in a whirlwind romance with Smith. He preyed on vulnerable women, convinced them to open joint bank accounts and vanished just days after their wedding before moving on to the next victim. They teamed up with a local Kansas City bounty hunter, Carla Campbell (far right) and filmmakers, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing to track down Smith for justice and revenge, the docuseries is told in real time and viewers are along for the ride during parking lot stakeouts across America
‘We hit on all cylinders,’ said Ellen, who was instantly smitten with Smith after connecting online. During a quick courtship, Smith convinced Ellen to purchase a fully furnished home in Florida in her name. He also He told her that he was expecting a large medical malpractice payout of $7.8 million
Richard Scott Smith, 48, preyed on single, middle age, suburban mothers using a number of different aliases (Scott, Rick, Mickey). He charmed them with flattering, expensive gifts and ‘talk of the future’ before leading them to financial ruin. His ability to do so hinged on his success to become ‘whatever someone wants him to be,’ said director, Rachel Grady to USA Today. ‘He’s a chameleon.’ Depending on the woman, Richard would pose as a down-to-earth used car salesman, other times he was a successful lawyer, a professional water skier, the owner of a real estate company, a wealthy doctor, an expert pianist, a black-belt in karate, a pilot, chef, financier and wine connoisseur. In reality, he’s a high school dropout with no college degree
At first blush, Richard Scott Smith (aka Scott, aka Rick, aka Mickey) makes for an improbable lothario. Balding, with a stilted smile and nervous stutter, he’s not your typical playboy. But his success as a conman was in his ability to pick out the right victim. He preyed on the vulnerable, those who were down on their luck, middle-aged and disheartened by love after a series of bad dates and frizzled out romances.
‘Dating in your 40s sucks,’ said Tracy, a single mother-of-two who works as a real estate agent in Kansas City, Missouri. ‘It seems like your only choice is to go online to meet anybody, but it’s hard. You know? You look at a picture of someone and think, ‘Wow he’s got kind eyes’ or ‘He looks like he’s really fun’ and you get there and they don’t have teeth!’
Tracy thought she hit the jackpot when she met Richard Scott Smith online in 2016. He checked all the right boxes: he worked in real estate, owned his own company and was deeply religious. ‘So yeah, of course I was interested,’ she said.
Sabrina, 49, felt the same way. After one failed marriage she said: ‘I was in love with him, he made me feel like number one and I never had a guy do any of that for me before. Honestly it was like a golden ticket for me.’ Within one month of dating, Richard got Sabrina’s name tattooed on his back.
His modus operandi was the same with every victim. He charmed women through a rocket-speed romance with sweet talk, expensive gifts, and visions of a lavish future together. Under the false pretense of love and marriage, he convinced them to open joint checking accounts and credit cards – to which he would buy luxury cars and homes under his name. Then suddenly Smith would pull a bait and switch; he would empty their bank accounts, squander their crucial life savings and disappear. The women were left to shoulder the debt he amassed under their name.
So prolific were Richard Scott Smith’s exploits that a collective of scorned exes created a public blog to warn other women of his web of lies. The top of the web page reads: ‘Has this man victimized you?’ and featured the above image. It became a place for his duped wives to trade stories and track the elusive con man’s whereabouts
Richard Scott Smith, left, of Lenexa, Kansas, left behind him a trail of fraud, forgery, deceit, bigamy, and at least one case of assault – he is pictured with one of his wives Jean Hansen. She told the Kansas City Star in 2017: ‘When I first met him, he was very charming, he was very affectionate he was always complimentary – just a really, really nice guy. Very charismatic.’ Months into their short, nine month marriage, Jean said that Smith began to change, she learned later that he proposed to another woman just days before their 2015 marriage
Jean Hansen (right) thinks she might have been wife number 8 or 9. She tearfully tells the documentary how she was scammed for over $700,000 when Smith convinced her to invest in one of his fraudulent companies. She was left so destitute, that she had to borrow money to file for bankruptcy. Sabrina Dunlap, a divorced, 49-year-old hair stylist was wooed by the customer who tipped her in $50 bills. She said: ‘I was in love with him, he made me feel like number one and I never had a guy do any of that for me before. Honestly it was like a golden ticket for me.’ After one month of dating, Richard got Sabrina’s name tattooed on his back, He vanished shortly thereafter, leaving Sabrina $95,000 in debt
Likewise, after a quick courtship, Smith proposed to Tracy: ‘One minute we were dating and the next minute he was staying over and then the next minute his stuff had moved in.’ He bought her a Porsche (with a bad check) and promised to pay for her son’s college.
Tracy granted him access to her money. They bought a house and talked about investing in a retirement condo on the beach in Florida. Richard claimed that he was expecting a multi-million dollar payout from a medical malpractice suit. ‘Everything we were doing revolved around the 7th of November because that’s when his money was supposed to be coming in. He would say to me, we’re going to be millionaires in a couple days.’
His house of cards came crashing down when Tracy’s daughter Kayla became suspicious and decided to search his car. She discovered pill bottles and papers addressed with different names, ‘My first thought is that he was a drug addict,’ she said. ‘But all of the ideas that ran through my head at that moment were nothing compared to the truth.’
By then, he had already moved on to the next victim. ‘One minute I was his world and he couldn’t live without me, and within hours he disappeared and never spoke to me again.’
‘The first night we talked, we talked for like three hours,’ said Ellen. ‘We hit on all cylinders.’ After a whirlwind romance, Richard took her to Zales jewelry store to pick out a 2-carat ring. He explained that he was expecting a large settlement to the tune of $12.7 million, ‘but after the attorneys were paid,’ he would end up $7.8 million.
The couple closed on a fully furnished home in Florida (paid for by Ellen) and set their eyes on a $1.3 million beach-front property in Belize. He bought two Sea-doos, six life jackets and a ‘4-wheeler thing because he said that’s how they travel down there.’
Thanks to the efforts of the ‘revenge squad’ and filmmakers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, Richard Scott Smith was arrested in 2017 on an outstanding warrant for identity theft and forgery. He was sentenced to ten months in jail and was released on probation in April 2019. As of today, the prolific con man is now free to do as he pleases and it already seems like he’s up to old tricks. Grady told the NY Post that one woman saw the trailer and reached out: ‘She said that her sister is living with him [and] he won’t let her watch TV or talk to her relatives.’ She added: ‘I think the floodgates are about to open’
Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing spent hours surveilling Richard Scott Smith with a team of private investigators that they hired to help track him down. Grady told Vanity Fair: ‘Obviously putting a camera into any situation already changes the outcome. Hiring P.I.s is definitely going to change the outcome. But we were okay with that, because we weren’t just going to sit and watch these women flail around to try to get justice if we could actually help them’
Surveillance footage taken from a parking lot stakeout spots Richard Smith entering a hotel room with a new woman
‘There were times when he was like, the perfect partner,’ said Ellen; and there were times ‘that he could be looking at you, but it was like he wasn’t seeing you, his eyes didn’t look right.’
Married for less than a year, Jean Hansen thinks she was wife number eight, or nine. She was plundered into $700,000 worth of debt when Richard persuaded her to invest in one of his sham businesses, and forced to borrow money just to file for bankruptcy. Jean found out that Richard had also become engaged to another woman named Sandi just days before their own wedding in July, 2015.
Jean learned of Sandi, months later when Richard was arrested in a hotel room for domestic violence. Sandi told police that she thought Richard was going to kill her after he threw her down and smashed an iPad over her heard. He tried to tell Jean that he had been ‘jumped’ and falsey accused, though that didn’t square with his domestic violence charge. She said, ‘and I thought well that’s not likely because I’m his wife and he didn’t beat me up.’
Richard’s success with women hinged on his ability to become ‘whatever someone wants him to be,’ said director, Rachel Grady to USA Today. ‘He’s a chameleon.’
Depending on the victim, Richard would pose as a down-to-earth used car salesman, other times he was a successful lawyer, a professional water skier, the owner of a real estate company, a wealthy doctor, an expert pianist, a black-belt in karate, a pilot, chef, financier and wine connoisseur. In reality, he’s a high school dropout with no college degree.
Very little is known of Richard Scott Smith’s family history. His aunt tells the documentary that he had a chaotic childhood. He was raised by his grandparents until the age of nine, when his verbally abusive, alcoholic mother took him back and vanished without a trace. It would be 27-years before he was reunited with his family. Smith’s mother died when he was 32, leaving him to care for his orphaned 12-year-old sister named Toni. Now, an adult living in Texas, she tells the documentary: ‘Scott was jumping from woman to woman and telling them that I was his daughter. She claimed that Smith was violent and verbally abusive: ‘He used me as a tool to play at their heartstrings’
Richard Scott Smith’s aunt tells filmmakers how she was also swindled by her nephew
Eventually these women bound by grief and rage, formed a sisterhood of jilted lovers with a singular goal to take him down and prevent him from defrauding others. They connected on a blog titled, ‘Scott The Crook Smith’ that was started by Lisa Lenton in 2016. (Lenton was married to Richard in 2012 and sought an annulment).
The site became a meeting-ground for his victims who traded stories and tracked the elusive conman’s whereabouts. An entry posted by ‘Another victim’ asks: ‘did he wrong you too.’ – ‘Yes,’ the anonymous person responded, ‘I am another victim. Are you a recent victim? What did he do to you?’
When Richard failed to appear in court for his assault charge, ‘Ex Girlfriend TN’ alerted the community: ‘Hey everyone, just wanted to update you ….today was suppose [sic] to be the court hearing for the assault case…Rick has called into the courts and said he couldn’t make it because his step-sister Meghan was in a bad car wreck and he had to fly to CA to be with her. Well,I called Meghans work today and guess what? You got it,she is at work and has been in NO car accident!!!!’
A post on the blogsite reveals a screenshot sent from Smith which reads: ‘This is all slanderous and not accurate information. Please remove’
They tried to warn new victims, but for many it was already too late. In August 2016, ‘Concerned’ wrote: ‘Sabrina from Kansas City/Lenexa/Olathe, if you are able to get this message, know that the car you just leased under your name for Rick/Scott or whatever he calling himself these days, is the first step in putting you in financial hardship. Be careful with your credit cards, opening new accounts under your name with him telling you he will pay off the balance and anything else having to do with a business you may own or manage.’ By the time Sabrina got wise to Richard, he had already conned her out of $95,000 and skipped town.
Karla Campbell left her children and husband of 39 years for Richard after they met doing karaoke. From the beginning she was aware of the accusations lodged against him, but the master con reassured her that it was ‘just a witch hunt.’ After all, she wondered: ‘If they had something on him, wouldn’t he go to jail?’
It wasn’t long before Richard convinced Karla to empty her husband’s retirement fund and open a restaurant in Wichita, Kansas. The blog didn’t mince words: ‘Hey Karla, the ONLY reason he is with you is for your money because you have NOTHING ELSE that he needs. He doesn’t love you.’
And just like he had done so many times before, Richard drained the Krab Kingz business account and vanished – leaving Karla to face angry vendors and employees when their payroll checks bounced. ‘He lives off people’s dreams and makes their fantasies come true,’ said Karla.
Despite his long rap sheet, Richard Scott Smith went relatively unchecked for years. And even though there was a warrant out for his arrest, law enforcement were apathetic in taking up the cause.
‘It was almost like, ‘You should’ve known better, honey,’ or, ‘I hope you learned your lesson, sweetie,’ which was verbatim said to several of the women by law enforcement,’ said director Heidi Ewing to Vanity Fair.
It was via the blog that award-winning directing duo, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing first learned of the story a couple years back. Stunned by the injustice, they felt compelled to help the ‘revenge squad’ track down the man who robbed them of their money and dignity. Ewing told Vanity Fair: ‘So we just thought, you know what, if anybody can do it, it’s us.’
They sold the concept to Showtime and began filming in 2017. Days went by with no leads and the filmmakers decided to hire private investigators in various cities where Richard was suspected to be hiding. This is when the docuseries turns into a crime-thriller that unravels in real-time, and the viewer is along for the ride.
Many months and parking lot stake-outs later, the ‘revenge squad’s’ painstaking efforts finally paid off and Richard Scott Smith was arrested in 2017 for identity theft and forgery. He was sentenced to 10 months in jail and released on probation in April 2019.
The prolific con man is now free to do as he pleases and it already seems like he’s up to old tricks. Grady told the New York Post that one woman saw the trailer and reached out: ‘She said that her sister is living with him [and] he won’t let her watch TV or talk to her relatives.’ She added: ‘I think the floodgates are about to open.’