As I neared the end of Showtime’s new docuseries Love Fraud, I still felt like I was no closer to understanding serial bigamist and scammer Richard Scott Smith’s motives behind why he spent years convincing women to fall in love with him and con them out of their money. As more of his backstory was revealed, I thought I could see the dots connecting only to realize that it wasn’t at all what I thought. But I’m not alone. That is the same rollercoaster that co-directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing experienced when making the series.
“There’s a lot going on behind the alligator tears,” Ewing told Refinery29. Even after following him for a year, they still could not fully understand what makes Smith tick. One of the biggest revelations for Grady and Ewing was that someone could get away with defrauding countless women for more than 20 years, but that got them no closer to understanding why someone would want to. “He would walk away essentially with nothing. That was really a surprise to me,” said Grady. “Why is he doing this when it takes so much work and effort to pull off?” Ewing seconded this saying that from everything they found, he never managed to scam anyone out of a large sum of money in a single con.
The closest we get as the viewer to glimpsing Smith’s psyche comes from one of the most compelling scenes in Love Fraud – an actual interview with Smith. “I would love, love to derail the story...I have absolutely nothing to hide...And I think you’ll be really surprised by what you learn,” Smith said over the phone before agreeing to the climactic interview.
In the final cut of Love Fraud, the interview lasts about 13 minutes. In reality, Smith spoke for much longer. “He went on for hours,” revealed Ewing. In fact, there were quite a few parts that didn’t make it into the interview that the two co-directors still think about. Ewing continued: “He is obsessed with this book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People which he’s read a bunch of times and he had it there and was even reading us excerpts. And the irony of him in prison stripes telling us what he learned from this self-help book was so beyond the pale. So beyond the pale that we didn’t even know how to use it.”
Even with hours of footage left on the cutting room floor, there is still so much to unpack from Smith’s interview. Ahead, are some of the moments that made us do a double-take.
He thinks he’s innocent.
“I agreed to talk to you today because I wanted to get my story out,” Smith says right at the beginning. “I want everybody in the world knowing that I’m not the person that they’ve claimed me to be. I’m just not that person.” Throughout the entire interview, he is insistent that he has done nothing wrong and that every accusation against him is false. With a resolute “no,” Smith abjectly dismissed any claims that he ever committed a crime despite being accused of forgery, identity theft, and domestic abuse.
He was always looking for a relationship that would last.
“I wanted the serious. I wanted the long-term. I did not want anything short-term,” he says earnestly. “I want the fairytale romance. I want that. I want the forever.” Meanwhile, most of his relationships were either short term or often overlapped with others.
He says he's dated a lot of “fixer-uppers.”
When told that he has been described as a con man, Smith seemed taken aback. Immediately on the defensive, he began rattling off anecdotal examples of times he helped partners pay for bills and cars describing those women as “fixer-uppers.”
He blames his problems on a blog his ex-wife created.
In the hopes that no other woman would be conned by Smith, one of his ex-wives created a blog dedicated to warning anyone that may date him. “My life has been very very difficult at every single turn which you created,” he said addressing the women who have contributed to the blog. “I really hope that you’re satisfied and I hope you’re happy with your results because you got the results that you wanted. But I’m going to tell you...you’re not going to break me. Nobody’s going to break me.”
He doesn’t remember how many times he’s been married.
When asked in the interview how many times he’s been married, Smith seemed sure that it was five times. That was until other names were mentioned. He claimed that he forgot about one and another one was so short it felt like it didn’t count. In total, he’s been married 11 times, some of which overlapped. By Smith’s recollection, he was in overlapping marriages on two separate occasions, but he claims he never knew they were both valid.
He relates to President Donald Trump.
Sticking to his victim narrative, Smith said he knows he is not the only one whose life has been adversely affected by accusations made against them. “You look at our president of our country. Somebody’s always gotta say something about him and he’s been falsely accused of a lot of things,” Smith continued.
While both Grady and Ewing openly admit that they have no idea what drives Smith, they speculate that it is motivated more by a power dynamic than financial gain. “He marries some of them in big, Catholic weddings in churches,” Grady shares. “That was really weird to me. I think part of it is to really, in the end, humiliate this woman in front of everyone she knows.”
According to Grady and Ewing, Smith acted as though he was convinced he was going to be able to talk them out of making the series. “He always gets away with it. He always talks people into what he wants,” said Ewing. “He’s used to people believing his tall tales and his sad stories and his tears. And I think he doesn’t have a lot of respect for women. He thought that he could persuade us that he was victimized.”
Still, as we all shook our heads on a Zoom call, taking turns throwing our hands in the air, the best anyone could do was guess.