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Crime world How the 'Queen of the Con' scammed millions by posing as an Irish heiress

Marianne ‘Mair’ Smyth manipulated dozens of people by pretending to be an heiress from a “wealthy Irish family with IRA lineage”.

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Mair Smyth frequently changed her hair style, from long to short to red to black. Picture by Johnathan Walton

Mair Smyth frequently changed her hair style, from long to short to red to black. Picture by Johnathan Walton

Mair Smyth frequently changed her hair style, from long to short to red to black. Picture by Johnathan Walton

An American conwoman who scammed people out of thousands of dollars by posing as ‘Irish royalty’ avoided extradition to Northern Ireland because of Covid restrictions.

Marianne ‘Mair’ Smyth, dubbed ‘Queen of the Con,’ manipulated dozens of people by pretending to be an heiress from a “wealthy Irish family with IRA lineage”.

One such victim of Smyth’s scams was Johnathan Walton, an Emmy award-winning TV producer who was conned out of almost $70,000 by the woman he thought was his best friend.

Walton recently created the eight-part podcast series Queen of the Con: The Irish Heiress about his experience with Smyth.

Speaking to Nicola Tallant on the Crime World podcast, Walton opened up about his former friend and explained that Smyth had an elaborate fake backstory that helped her to deceive her victims.

“She had moved to the United States years ago from Ireland because her family hates her. She abandoned the family,” he said.

“She had a framed Irish Constitution on parchment paper with fancy writing on her wall and she said her great great uncle was a signatory and a founder of Ireland. She said she was royalty from Ireland.

“She had IRA connections. Her family was in the IRA and her grandmother taught her how to throw Molotov cocktails at British soldiers as a child. I was stunned.

"That’s quite a history... it was so fantastical; how could it be fake? I believed it.

“It seemed legitimate to me. Never did I think that everything was a hoax. She was a full-time con artist.”

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Johnathan Walton

Johnathan Walton

Johnathan Walton

Smyth pretended that her Irish family had frozen her bank account and turned to Walton for several loans — even paying her rent for a few months and covering legal fees for the fake case against her family.

“I started loaning her up to $20,000 cash out of my bank account until she tells me, ‘Look, the District Attorney is going to drop my case and I’ll get my inheritance but I need to pay court fees of $54,000.’

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“I let her charge my credit card and everything was fine but that was short-lived.”

Walton became suspicious when Smyth was ordered to serve 30 days in jail and he discovered that she was convicted of grand theft.

“I quickly realised that everything she said to me about this case was a lie. Nobody froze her bank accounts. She pleaded guilty for stealing $200,000 and she scammed me into paying restitution in that case so she would only get a 30-day jail sentence and not five years.

“That’s when I realised that I got scammed. She took all this money from me.

“I didn’t know that she was an international con artist with victims all over the world. I just knew she scammed me.”

Walton explained that he united with other victims online to bring Smyth to justice and exposed a complex string of cons stretching from Los Angeles to Belfast.

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Johnathan Walton with Mair Smyth. Picture by Johnathan Walton

Johnathan Walton with Mair Smyth. Picture by Johnathan Walton

Johnathan Walton with Mair Smyth. Picture by Johnathan Walton

“I started a website to tell my story to prevent other people from getting scammed by her. I didn’t know there would be other victims... Victims would tell me the crazy stories of how she scammed them under different names. By the time it was all over, I’d uncovered 23 aliases.

“In the end, according to police in Northern Ireland who found my blog and called me up, there are 26 victims who reported her and she got away with almost half a million dollars from Northern Ireland.

“At one point she began an online relationship with a postal worker from Northern Ireland,” Walton said previously.

“She went on vacation [to Northern Ireland] with her daughter and she decided to stay. She married the man and worked a lot of odd jobs.

“She eventually found work at a mortgage company and disappeared with the down payment from six people’s homes and scammed other people there with investment opportunities. She lived there for nine years.”

In 2018, the police finally arrested Smyth. One month before her trial, she attempted to file a domestic violence restraining order against Walton claiming he was threatening her life — which would have prevented him from being able to testify during the trial — but the judge refused to grant the order.

By the time the jury convicted Smyth of grand theft by false pretence, Walton was down $91,874 in total.

Smyth was put behind bars in January 2019 and was set to serve two and a half years in prison before being released in June 2021.

However, in December 2020, Los Angeles County decided to let a number of non-violent criminals out early due to overcrowding and the constraints caused by the pandemic.

Smyth was due to be extradited to Northern Ireland upon her release, where her alleged crimes are currently being investigated, but because the country was in a Covid lockdown at the time, the fraudster walked free.

“Because of Covid, she got out early,” Walton told Tallant.

“When she got out in December 2020, Northern Ireland was in lockdown. So, the extradition plan that they had in place when she was [supposed to be] released in June 2021 was on hold because they’re in lockdown.

“So she got away. She fled California and we found her. She’s living in Maine on a border town with Canada. I think her plan is to slip into Canada.

“But while Covid has helped her in one respect, it’s hurt her in another because the Canadian border is shut down. You can’t drive in. It’s one of their Covid precautions.”

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