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Sam Conning, Seattle, Washington

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I wanted to share my experience in hopes that it will prevent others from being hurt by the predators, that lurk on the Internet. I am an educated woman in my 40’s. I am professionally employed and hold a senior-level position within my organization . Until I went through the following internet experience, I had considered myself a good judge of character. I had been online for more than a year before I first tried out a chat room. I joined a room where the people shared similar circumstances as myself. The people were generally nice and it was great being able to share my thoughts and life experiences with people who understood them. A small group of us gradually became like a family, corresponding often. The center of the family was “Edith”. Everyone liked Edith she was warm, funny and very caring. As the months progressed she became like an older sister to me. However, Edith had major health problems and our group went through a series of Edith’s hospitalizations and continued health deterioration. Through it all Edith’s husband, “Sam”, was there. He loved Edith so much and would do anything to make her happy. He retired early to spend more time with her. They seemed the perfect couple and Sam a dream husband. Finally one morning at work, Sam called me to tell me Edith had died in his arms. I don’t know how I made it through the rest of that day. I was devastated. I remember crying all the way home that night. I truly felt like I had lost a sister. Feeling the way I did I knew Sam and his family must be going through hell. Then a week later, Sam went for a medical checkup. He was diagnosed with cancer. Our online family again rallied round as he started chemo and radiation treatments. In particular, I was there for him and as time went by our relationship changed. I fell in love and finally he traveled across the county to meet me in person. We had a wonderful time. I introduced him him to my friends and even my minister and his wife. Everyone agreed that I had found a nearly perfect man. Soon however, Sam had to return home for more cancer treatments. We continued our on-line relationship. Finally I decided I had to visit him and met his family. I proposed a visit right after Christmas and things suddenly got weird. He came up with all kinds of excuses. I grew suspicious and started to check facts I should have checked in the beginning. Absolutely nothing but his name and address checked. The more I checked the further I felt I had moved into the Twilight Zone. There was no trace of Edith. She had never existed. In desperation, I went back to our online family for their thoughts. We went back to photos of Edith and reached the sickening conclusion that it was not a desperately ill woman but a man dressed up like a woman (the hands were the real give-away and the wig was placed crookedly upon his head). Our group consensus was that the photo of Edith was actually SAM. Then as if things weren’t bad enough investigation turned up that Sam had a living wife. It was at this point I confronted Sam and at first he admitted to and apologized for the deception. Then he turned right back around and started “explaining” things. Because of the impending physical and financial disaster due to his cancer, he said he had to hurriedly marry his 3rd cousin (for financial/legal purposes), a marriage of necessity, no physical contact – purely convenience, so he could keep his house etc. He said they had gotten married AFTER his visit with me. He sent one of our online group a copy of Edith’s death certificate. Still wanting to believe that some part of our relationship was real I checked the marriage. The records confirmed that he had been married to the same woman for 20 years and it wasn’t his cousin. Edith’s death certificate was, of course, a fake. I cut off all contact with him at that point. To this day, I don’t know why he went through this elaborate charade with me. You have to live such an experience to fully understand the pain and emotional turmoil he put me through. But I don’t recommend it, it drains you. Don’t be fooled as I was. I can still hardly believe this happened to me! I was disappointed with myself as I thought I knew how to detect a liar. It doesn’t help in the least that I wasn’t the only one he conned. In fact, it made it worse that I had to go through the proofs of his deception with numerous online and real world friends to convince them that Sam was anything but the warm, loving man they had thought him to be. So, a word to the wise — it can happen to you and if you feel something is wrong, it probably is, check it out. And if he lies once then run the other way!

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