Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 5/6/20 – An unremarkable-looking man with the unassuming name of Richard Scott Smith used the Internet and his dubious charms to manipulate many women out of their money–and their love–for over twenty years. Warning blogs notwithstanding, Mr. Smith proved very difficult to stop.
The true story of Richard Scott Smith will at last be told via a four-part documentary series called LOVE FRAUD that Showtime is set to premiere on Friday, May 8th, 2020 at 9/8c. The documentary created by Emmy winners and Academy Award nominees Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady was shown at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in January.
Led by a badass bounty hunter named Carla turned Calamity Jane, several of the women who are duped by Richard Scott Smith band together to capture him and bring him down. In the process, many questions arise about Smith’s personality and motives.
How does he manage to attract all of these women? What is he getting out of it? And why does he keep getting away with it?
The age of online dating has created many monsters like these. Con men like Richard Scott Smith find it very easy to slip between the cracks of cyber-romance and leave chaos in their wake. “This guy will NEVER change his behavior as he is incapable of doing so,” one of Smith’s marks claimed in a comment posted on September 4th, 2017.
“Richard Scott Smith is a predator of the worst kind,” insisted another blogger who posted on October 14th, 2015. “If you look up the definition of Snake Oil Salesman, his picture will be included.”
“He talks a big game and makes a lot of promises he never intends to keep. He is a chameleon who will change his colors to adapt to any situation as long as it will benefit him.”
One wonders what sort of solutions would seem fair and just in such odd situations combining disparate crimes such as assault, bigamy, domestic violence, forgery, identity theft, and fraud. We have all heard of sociopathic serial killers, but sociopathic serial lovers might be even harder to pin down legally.
LOVE FRAUD was discussed at a Winter 2020 TCA Press Tours panel for Showtime taking place on Monday, January 13th at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. Present were directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady as well as one of the documentary’s subjects, Tracy, a professional woman living in the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri.
While Ewing and Grady had made many documentaries, they never got so personally involved with the subjects as they did with those in LOVE FRAUD. There was a national warrant for Mr. Smith’s arrest while the female vigilantes and filmmakers were looking for him. However, they were the only ones!
“We think that maybe after this [series] airs, there’s going to be other women coming forward who were married to him [Richard Scott Smith] or have stories about him, because there isn’t any press on it now,” said Heidi Ewing. We can only hope so!
Richard Scott Smith turned out to be an “equal opportunity con man” who boldly turned his scams even on older male relatives. He would often use the assets milked out of one victim to leverage his next con.
The animated sequences in LOVE FRAUD definitely make it stand out from a pack of true crime documentaries that use recreations of past events. Ewing and Grady thought that recreated sequences would be too slick for their purposes and were glad to find such a creative and engaging alternative.
The “ordinary people” aspect of this film set in the geographic center of the US may broaden its appeal. The women Scott targeted were not highly placed or hitting glass ceilings, so the film shows how the #MeToo movement plays itself out in everyday America.
Love and companionship are universal human needs that have nothing to do with geographical location, political affiliation, or occupation. Richard Scott Smith understood this and zeroed in on fragile people in pain.
“What made him so charming?” said Tracy. “I think it’s just the fact that he could really read people and see what they needed in their lives. . . .He fed into what you needed.”
“I feel like this has helped me,” concluded Tracy. “I feel like I’ve come out better. I haven’t let him [Richard Scott Smith] cripple me. I haven’t let him stop me. . .I feel like if I stopped dating or if I stopped looking for someone, then he would have won. And I refuse to let that happen.”
LOVE FRAUD is an eccentric and almost prophetic tale of betrayal and revenge that builds momentum through its bona fide manhunt. The film’s sublime madness should keep true crime lovers talking for a long time. So sit back, hang onto your hat, and hold on to your 401k!
LOVE FRAUD was executive produced by Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, Amy Goodman Kass, Jihan Robinson, Michael Bloom, and Maria Zuckerman for Topic Studios. It was edited by J.D. Marlow, illustrated by Martin O’Neill, and animated by Andrew Griffin. Its total running time is 200 minutes.