Ellen, far left, Sandi, Tracy and Sabrina Dunlap were hoodwinked by Richard Scott Smith. They are photographed with bounty hunter Carla Campbell, far right. (Photo: Courtesy of Showtime)
When it comes to romance, Richard Scott Smith provided the letters C-O-N.
Smith and several women he burned are at the center of Showtime’s new four-part docuseries “Love Fraud,” debuting Sunday (9 EDT/PDT). The project, co-directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, is part thrilling manhunt, part look into Smith’s upbringing and the toll he took on the women who loved him.
Smith quickly love-bombed his way into women’s hearts and wallets, amassing sky-high bills.
“I was well in over $700,000 in debt,” one teary-eyed ex says in the premiere episode.
The master of the conning craft had at least 10 wives, and Ewing warns “there’s no reason for us to believe that it ends at 10.”
“Love Fraud” began filming around the end of 2017 and tracks Smith, who was still at large, for most of the following year with the help of a bounty hunter, as well as private investigators hired by Ewing and Grady. The duo abandoned their fly-on-the-wall documentary style in order to stop the bleeding caused by Smith.
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“Love Fraud” co-directors Heidi Ewing, left, and Rachel Grady (Photo: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)
“It seemed just wrong and lame to sit around and watch these women try to put the resources together the best they could, when they have full-time jobs and kids,” says Ewing. “We had the resources of Showtime, and we have smarts and we had a team, and we’re like, ‘Let’s go find this guy.’ … We sort of joined what we call the revenge squad.”
Grady points out the danger of Smith’s ability to contort himself into someone’s dream man. “He is a chameleon,” she says. “He is whatever someone wants him to be. He steals people’s lives.”
Sabrina Dunlap, a blond 49-year-old with no tolerance for nonsense, initially thought Smith was heaven-sent.
“(God) sent me someone that (was) everything I’d been asking for,” she says in the docuseries’ premiere.
Now, she describes him to USA TODAY as “A snake. Pure evil.” He’s a “big time predator,” she adds. “And, I hope some day he burns in hell.”
Dunlap is one of the many women once engaged to “Rick,” as she calls him – though he introduced himself to others as Mickey or Scott. (She says Smith paid for her engagement ring with a bad check.)
Dunlap was content with her life prior to meeting Smith in May 2016. She says her days were filled with work – she’s a hairstylist – and her Chow Chow, who has since died. Following “a nightmare” first marriage that she says should’ve ended after one year but lasted 14, Dunlap had no interest in remarrying.
“I dated a lot; a lot of jerks out there,” she says “Nothing ever worked out.”
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Sabrina Dunlap, featured in Showtime’s “Love Fraud,” is one of many women who con man Richard Scott Smith proposed to. (Photo: Courtesy of Showtime)
Still, a frequent customer of her hair salon, who she says would tip $50, eventually wore her down.
She says Smith told her he was married once before, but had been divorced for three years. He seemed to be someone who was stable and worked hard, which made Dunlap think, “Wow, this is a good guy!” Remembering her former impressions of Smith makes her laugh today. “He was good looking, seemed honest.”
After a first date at the sandwich chain Schlotzsky’s, Smith wooed Dunlap with clothes and jewelry. “I wasn’t used to that, and I thought, ‘Oh, wow, this is really nice!'” He also befriended her dog, treating the beloved pet to a McDonald’s hamburger, recalls Dunlap.
“There were no games, it just was easy,” she remembers of the early days of their relationship. “I was like, ‘He takes me for who I am – none of this crap,’ and so I thought, in the beginning, ‘This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me’ (laughs).”
Smith went as far as showing his “devotion” by inking “Sabrina” on his body, she says, above an anchor tattoo on his shoulder. Looking back, she thinks the move could’ve been intended to serve as an element of an alibi. According to Dunlap, Smith got a $250,000 life insurance policy on her and then “all of a sudden” desired to go on a cruise.
“Luckily he got sick, and the cruise didn’t happen,” says Dunlap. “But, when I look back, I honestly believe that he was gonna throw me off the cruise … and to prove to my family – and to probably the police – (say), ‘Oh, I loved her. See, her name’s on my back.'”
Dunlap says their cruise plans were thwarted by a tumor that Smith had removed. After his health ordeal, Dunlap says Smith’s demeanor toward her “completely changed.”
“Looking back, it’s like his plan didn’t work,” she says. “Everything kind of backfired on him.”
Dunlap says she left Smith on Oct. 31, 2016, after learning he told her dad and brother-in-law that she was the one frivolously spending his money. Then, she says she found out he was using her credit cards to pay his medical bills and her mother was contacted through LinkedIn by one of Smith’s wives. At an Applebee’s she would find out the type of man her former fiancé truly is from Smith’s exes, Sandi and Jean, his wife, and, as Dunlap remembers, “boom – the floor just completely dropped out.”
Dunlap says she was in disbelief.
“When I left the restaurant I just really felt like someone took a baseball bat to me and just knocked the crap out of me, and I had no idea how to fix it,” she says.
She decided Smith wouldn’t get away with what he’d done and says she filed charges for identity theft.
“I tell girls the best way to get over a guy is revenge,” Dunlap tells viewers in “Love Fraud.” “I’m sorry, it is. It’s not going to a therapist. It’s not crying about it or talking to your friends over and over.”
She estimates, including the lawyers she hired to help in her pursuits, her debt from Smith totaled $100,000. Though she had to move in with her parents, Dunlap says she has financially recovered and plans to move out next summer.
Meeting the others Smith wronged has helped Dunlap mentally recover. A dozen of Smith’s former flames are featured in “Love Fraud.”
“It just felt very comfortable being with them because these are smart women, these are successful women. And these are women that are go-getters,” she says. “And I’m like, ‘OK, I’m not alone.’ It just felt good.”
Dunlap, like Grady, hopes audiences will walk away from “Love Fraud” with a sense of empathy for Smith’s victims.
“I don’t believe anyone should judge anybody on their experience with this situation,” says Dunlap. “They should be more like, ‘Well, it’s very sad that person took advantage of you,’ instead of saying, ‘Why did you do that? Why did you do this?'”
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