American woman who posed as heiress faces extradition to Northern Ireland on fraud charges


An American woman who previously posed as heiress to a fortune faces extradition to Northern Ireland to face charges in connection with alleged schemes in which she is accused of duping investors out of over $150,000. She was previously convicted in a scam in Los Angeles that was detailed on the “Queen of Con” podcast.

Marianne Smyth, 54, is accused of defrauding five customers by enticing them to invest with her while she worked as a mortgage advisor in Northern Ireland from March 2008 to October 2010, British and U.S. officials said.

She is accused of scamming five people out of £135,570 (US$172,000), money that she said would be invested but instead kept for herself, the officials said.

An arrest warrant in Maine was signed and issued Feb. 23 for her arrest and extradition to Northern Ireland, where she is charged with four counts of fraud by abuse of position and four counts of theft.

An extradition hearing is set for April 17 in Bangor. An attorney listed for Smyth did not reply to a request for comment.

Smyth could face up to 10 years in prison for each of the charges, prosecutors have said in court, according to The Guardian.

Marianne Smyth.
Marianne Smyth.Police Service of Northern Ireland

Alleged Northern Ireland schemes

Smyth is accused of defrauding the five people while working as an independent mortgage adviser for An Independent Mortgage Solution Ltd.

In that role, she was supposed to “safeguard the financial interests of her clients,” a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Maine said. Instead, she stole her clients’ money, U.S. prosecutors said on behalf of British officials seeking her extradition.

Police in Northern Ireland received reports about Smyth’s fraud and theft in July 2009. But by then, she had left the U.K. and returned to the U.S., prosecutors said.

One victim, identified in court documents as J.S., told police he met Smyth in 2009 when she arranged a mortgage on his home. He said Smyth offered him the opportunity “to invest in a high interest-bearing account held with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia,” the complaint said.

On June 15, 2009, J.S. and his wife met with Smyth and gave her a check for £20,000 to be invested, the complaint said. But the couple never saw or heard from her again, it said.

Officials said a police investigation determined that the check was deposited into Smyth’s bank account the day after it was issued and that there was no evidence that the funds were ever invested or returned to the couple.

That account was closed Oct. 4, 2010, according to court documents.

Police said they received similar accounts from other alleged victims.

One person, identified in court documents as S.S., told police he was offered the opportunity to invest in a high interest-bearing account with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia with a return of £400 a month if he invested £20,000. He gave Smyth a check on Oct. 28, 2008, according to officials.

From November 2008 until April 2009, and again in June 2009, S.S. received £400 a month, which he believed to be the return on his investment, the court documents said. But after June 2009, the payments stopped, officials said.

Prosecutors say that when he contacted the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a representative informed him the bank “had no record of an account associated with his name and that the account number did not exist.” S.S.’s attempts to contact Smyth were unsuccessful, according to court documents.

Smyth last arrived in the U.S. on June 25, 2013, on a U.S. passport and hasn’t left the country since, the complaint said.

The British Embassy requested her extradition in 2021 and again in October.

Surveillance was conducted by the U.S. Marshals Service; Smyth was located in Bingham, Maine, in January; and the complaint and warrant were signed and sealed on Feb. 23.

Guilty of fraud in California

Years after she disappeared from Northern Ireland in 2009, Smyth was convicted in Los Angeles of defrauding podcaster Johnathan Walton, who has said that at one time he considered her his best friend.

Smyth was convicted in January 2019 of grand theft in California and sentenced to five years.

In an essay for HuffPost in 2019, Walton detailed “a four-year nightmare” involving Smyth, who he called “an immensely lovable woman who inserted herself into my life and became my best friend.”

“Unfortunately, she was also an international con artist on the run from the authorities and I was about to become one of her many ‘marks,'” Walton wrote.

Walton wrote that Smyth conned him out of nearly $100,000, forcing him into bankruptcy, while “she was also scamming dozens of others around the world by impersonating psychics, mortgage brokers, psychologists, lawyers, travel agents, and even pretending to be a cancer victim.”

Before Smyth was convicted, Walton started a blog about his situation with Smyth after he filed a police report in 2017. He said in the essay that others began coming forward with allegations against Smyth.

As the story gained traction, he wrote, police in Northern Ireland reached out and said they had been searching for Smyth for years in connection with a number of other alleged scams.

In 2018, Los Angeles police arrested Smyth.

During her grand theft trial in Los Angeles, Walton said four other people testified to show a pattern of her behavior.

Smyth was found guilty of scamming Walton out of $91,784 in January 2019 and sentenced to five years.

She was released from prison early on Dec. 12, 2020, at a time when California was freeing thousands of nonviolent prisoners to curb the spread of Covid.

Walton then turned his story into a podcast series, “Queen of the Con,” in early 2021. As a result, The Guardian reported, listeners contacted Walton with Smyth’s most recent address in Maine.

He said he then shared the address with Northern Irish authorities, according to The Guardian, which led to Smyth’s arrest in Bingham.


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