Conned By a Con Artist: Coni

"My ex-husband, Paul, is a con artist who ruined my life. I believed everything that Paul told me. In reality, it was all a scam," says Coni. "I met Paul on a blind date. He seemed like the perfect man, very charming. Paul told me that he had a Ph.D., his own business, and he was a Major in the Air Force Reserves. I couldn't believe that someone like Paul would actually be interested in me. Everything I'd ever wanted was actually coming true.

"Paul latched on to me very quickly. Within three weeks after I'd met Paul, he had proposed to me. He was supposed to be being shipped out to Iraq. He said, 'Well, the easiest thing to do would be to get married.' I said yes. I was in love," Coni explains. "The day after our wedding, the day he was supposed to be shipped out, he told me that he couldn't go because his accountant had embezzled all his money. I'm shocked, just kind of numb. We go from 'money's not an object' to no money in a day. 

 

"They repossessed my wedding ring three days after the wedding. Two weeks after our wedding, he told me that he was a convicted felon," Coni says. "I got sick to my stomach. It was like, 'Who did I marry? Did he murder somebody? Was he a drug dealer?' I felt deceived. That was the beginning of him destroying my dream.

 

"Paul was very controlling. He wouldn't let me get the mail. He wouldn't let me answer the phone. He wouldn't let me talk to family or friends," Coni continues. "After awhile, I noticed that the checks were bouncing and the bill collectors were calling. His solution for that was, he was going to get a huge settlement and we would be fine. I got really suspicious and I called the attorney that was handling Paul's settlement, and he told me that he had no idea what I was talking about. That's when I knew that everything Paul told me was a lie, and I contacted the police."

"I found out that Paul has a criminal record in several states for forgery, theft by deception, and fraud. He was never in the military because he had flat feet. He didn't even have a job, let alone his own business. There was actually a warrant out for his arrest," Coni reveals. "I just got physically sick. I fell to the floor and I started hyperventilating. I just kept saying, 'This isn't happening. This isn't happening.' The police arrested him the next day.

 

"The police psychological evaluation of Paul was that he is anti-social, passive-aggressive," Coni says. "After Paul was arrested, I was taken aback to find out that he had taken out a life insurance policy on me with an accidental death clause, which meant that in the event of my death, he'd walk away with one hundred thousand dollars cash," Coni explains. "Paul knew I was the reason he got arrested. Ever since this has happened, I'm afraid that Paul is planning retaliation for me putting him in jail ... I have a will that I had drawn up after Paul was a

rrested. In my will, I drew up that Paul was entitled to absolutely nothing. And that no matter how natural my death seemed, they need to investigate it. I felt that even though I wouldn't be here, at least he wouldn't get anything from it."

Coni can no longer trust people. "I lock my house, whether I'm in it or not. I don't walk my dogs after dark. I don't go anywhere by myself," she says. "I feel like he took my freedom away from me. I don't want to be afraid all the time. I've never been afraid in my life. I want my confidence back."

 

Paul is scheduled for release in June 2007. "When he gets out, I feel like he is going to come after me to get his revenge. I don't know what Paul is capable of doing. I want to get my life back, I want to not be afraid of looking over my shoulder all the time. I don't want to be afraid anymore."

"My first question is very, very important," Dr. Phil tells Coni. "Do you understand, get and appreciate how you totally did not deserve what happened to you?"

"I do to a point, but yet, I should've known. And I should've stopped it. And I didn't," Coni says. 

"That's where I disagree, because you did stop it. And you stopped it really early in the game," Dr. Phil assures her. "You know, 'con' is short for confidence. They have the ability to inspire confidence in other people. You're dealing with a professional here. You're dealing with somebody for whom this is a whole life, and you're an amateur. You know, you're just a normal person who has a loving, and giving, and accepting spirit, and you meet a predator. And you discovered it really early on. And I want to change your mind about how you think about this. And it's hard to not be mad at yourself for that, right?"

"Very hard," Coni says. 

"Do you get the fact that you got on to this really quick?" Dr. Phil asks. 

"Yeah, I do. But he did so much damage in that short of time," Coni says.


"He took you for $62,000, and in a short period of time. This is what they do. They're good at it. It's what they do, because then they'll just disappear and have no accountability," Dr. Phil explains. "But you created accountability. You found him. You found him out. You went to the police. You had the courage to stand up for yourself, and you put him in jail."

"He took out an insurance policy that at a minimum, was betting on your death," Dr. Phil says. "And you're thinking, 'He's sitting in there, in that cell, plotting against me right now.' OK, well, and you're thinking, 'He may have friends on the outside that are going to come and get you." Coni nods in agreement. "There's no way to know that that's either true or false, but what I can tell you is people like this don't have friends. The chance of that happening with somebody like that is really, really very slim.

Because these people are loners. They can never show themselves to anybody. They never bond with anybody." Paul also doesn't have a history of violence that Coni is aware of. 

Dr. Phil continues. "Most of these guys are cowards. They're absolutly gutless, spineless cowards. That's why they sneak around and cheat and steal. And the real danger is that he'll get out and go do it with somebody else," he tells Coni. "His ability to face you and deal with you is probably the last thing that he wants to do." Dr. Phil says that Coni should still be cautious and pay attention to when he gets out, and she can be in contact with his probation officer. "You can know where he is, what he's doing. You're not helpless in this situation."

 

Dr. Phil offers her advice similar to what he told his previous guests. "You can't let this be a life sentence. And you're so upset with yourself because you let this happen to you, but the guy is good at what he does, and you found him out," he reiterates.

"When I was reading the timeline in the history here, I was astounded at your ability to connect the dots at the time," Dr. Phil tells Coni. "After the fact, 20/20 hindsight, it's obvious, right?

"Right," Coni agrees.

"But at the time, you figured it out from the inside out. That was good detective work. That was good honesty with yourself," Dr. Phil

says. "And you need to be proud of the fact that you figured that out, not saying how dumb you were. Do you hear what I'm saying?"

"I do," Coni says. "I know that that's all the things I should be doing, it's just, how do I do that?"

 

"Part of it is making a decision," Dr. Phil tells her. "There is no reality, only perception. And your perception right now, is that you were really naive and gullible, and got sucked in, and you've got to change your perception. You have to stop telling yourself those things because they're not true ... You've got to hang onto this and know what you're doing. And I will help you with that, OK?"

"OK," Coni says.

"I will help you with that, but you've got to make the commitment and take the steps," Dr. Phil concludes.