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Best Friend’s Betrayal: She Stole My $140,000

Johnathan thought he’d found a trusted friend, but Mair had a hidden agenda
  • Johnathan Walton, 49, became friends with Marianne ‘Mair’ Smyth in 2013.
  • Mair claimed she was descended from Irish royalty, but in 2014 she was arrested for fraud by she told Johnathan her wealthy family had framed her over money that had gone missing from her workplace.
  • Caring Johnathan paid her bail, but his nightmare was just beginning…

Here Johnathan tells his story in his own words

Sweltering in the heat, my husband Pablo, then 40, and I headed to our apartment block’s shared pool.

But a notice said residents no longer had access.

So I organised a meeting for those who wanted to fight to get our pool back.

Around 35 people turned up to our place, and that’s how I met Marianne Smyth, known as Mair. In her mid-40s and smartly dressed, she said she was dating a politician, and he could win back our pool.

That evening, Mair treated me and Pablo to dinner. She told us she’d grown up in Ireland.

I loved how straight forward she was, and soon we became close.

Mair was a generous friend, wining and dining us and showering us with gifts such as shoes and designer sunglasses.

Johnathan Walton Mair Smyth
Me and my ‘friend’ Mair in 2013 (Credit: Supplied.)

‘‘I’m Irish royalty,’ she said.’

Working for a luxury travel agency, she said she was their number one seller of Pacific Islands holidays. She walked with a limp and confided she had lupus and was in constant pain.

A couple of months later, in July 2013, Mair told me something else.

‘I’m Irish royalty,’ she said, even showing me and Pablo a framed copy of the Irish constitution hanging on her wall, with her great uncle’s signature.

A year into our friendship, she announced her uncle, the head of her family, had died.

Now her family were fighting over his $41m estate, and she was supposed to get an $8m cut.

She showed me emails from her awful cousin Fintan who was trying to have her disinherited.

Complicating things was the fact the travel company she worked for was owned by Fintan’s best friend…

I read a clause in the will, stating her inheritance would be revoked if she committed a serious crime.

‘What if they frame you for something?’ I worried.

‘They’re my family, they’d never!’ she said.

Marianne Smyth
Mair Smyth (Credit: Supplied)

‘I’ll pay you back,’ she promised.

But a few weeks later in July 2014, I got a call from Mair. She was in jail, charged with stealing $300,000 from her workplace.

‘You were right!’ she cried.

Feeling sorry for Mair, I paid her $6500 bail and her politician boyfriend paid me back the next day.

‘Thank you,’ she teared up over the phone.

There was more bad news. Mair’s bank accounts had been frozen.

Over the next couple of years I lent her thousands and thousands of dollars to help her cover her expenses. I had no doubt she’d pay me back once she cleared her name.

The case dragged on and, in September 2016, Mair told me if she paid a plea agreement of $76,000 the case would be resolved without a conviction being recorded, and she would get her inheritance.

‘When it’s over, I’ll pay you back,’ she promised, as we hung out at her place.

I didn’t have that kind of cash, so I put it on two credit cards.

A few months later in January 2017, Mair was inconsolable when I picked her up for brunch.

The judge had slapped her with a money laundering misdemeanour for using my credit cards to pay her plea agreement.

‘It’s 30 days in jail, but once I’m released, I’ll pay you back,’ she said.

Then she needed money for lawyer fees…

I still trusted Mair. But Pablo and I were fighting over the huge amount of cash I’d lent to her.

‘You have no idea what she’s been through!’ I said, defending my friend.

Two weeks into Mair’s jail term, we spoke on the phone and I told her I wanted to visit.

‘No! I don’t want you to see me like this!’ she said.

Still, I went to book a visit on the prison’s website, clicking on Mair’s profile.

Reading it, I felt heat rush through me.

Mair had actually been convicted of stealing from her workplace, after pleading guilty.

She’d lied…

She had been given a 180-day sentence for grand theft by embezzlement, related to missing money from her workplace. The term had been cut to 30 days.

She paid money as part of a plea deal. But not as much as she’d told me.

She’d never been in trouble over the credit cards I’d used, and her accounts had never been frozen. I’d been scammed by my best friend.

Picking her up from prison, in March 2017, I confronted her. ‘You’ve been scamming us this whole time!’ I said, fuming.

‘It’s not true!’ she lied.

The next day, I filed a police report, and began to share my story on a blog.

Johnathan Walton
Me doing research (Credit: Supplied)

Other victims came forward and I hired private detectives to investigate her past. Mair had a bunch of disguises and aliases. She’d duped victims out of cash by pretending she was a child custody investigator, a cancer patient, and a psychic.

She wasn’t an heiress – Ireland didn’t even have a royal family – and she was American. Her ‘evil’ family were all made up.
Marianne Smyth, then 49, was arrested in April 2018 and charged with grand theft.

Marianne Smyth
Marianne Smyth had many disguises (Credit: Supplied)

‘What she did was soulless,’ the judge said.

The trial began in the Superior Court of the State of California in early 2019.

By now, drowning in my credit card debts, I was down more than $140,000.

Financially destroyed, I’d had to file for bankruptcy.

‘She’s a brilliant actress who manipulated my emotions for four years,’ I told the court.

After being found guilty by the jury, in January 2019, Smyth was sentenced to five years for grand theft by false pretence.

‘What she did was soulless,’ Judge Craig Veals said. ‘She showed no remorse.’

In December 2020, Smyth was released from prison early due to Covid.

She’s now set to face further fraud charges in Belfast, UK.

In April 2021, I launched my podcast Queen of the Con, detailing my harrowing experience.

The more victims who speak out, the better.

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