I didn’t have much faith in online dating. I’d tried it once, had a few dud dates, and wrote it off. But one day my friend Natalie -- just out of a long relationship and dipping her toes into the Internet dating pool -- emailed me a link to a profile she thought I'd like.
My interest was piqued, so I clicked the link and it took me to the profile of a handsome British ex-pat named Simon who listed his interests as “films, books, hiking and travel.” I set up a private profile on the site and dropped him a line. After exchanging a few emails, we set up a lunch date.
I arrived at the pub and recognized Simon right away, pleased that he was just as good-looking in person. After a few pints, we had a nice vibe going. He told me he'd emigrated to the States seven years earlier, looking for a fresh start after his divorce.
We ordered food and talked and drank and talked some more. We were so engrossed in conversation that we were both astonished when we noticed that four hours had passed. I drove home from the date, feeling like I was on a cloud.
Simon called me two days later. He sounded upbeat but he had some unfortunate news. He said he'd come home from work to police cars and yellow caution tape around his yard; a drunk driver had plowed into the front of his house. Simon said that thankfully no one was hurt, adding that his dog Rugby had been sequestered in another part of the house. In the meantime, he’d be staying with a friend while his house was repaired.
“So anyway,” Simon said, laughing, “how was your day?”
Our relationship progressed quickly over the following weeks and I found myself falling hard for Simon. He was generous and passionate, given to grand gestures like taking me out for a spur-of-the-moment shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret.
On a sweltering August night two months into our relationship, Simon rang my cell phone. He sounded distraught.
“Rugby was hit by a car,” he said. “We're on our way to the emergency vet clinic.”
“Do you want me to meet you there?” I asked.
“No, you stay put. I’ll give you a call after the vet’s had a look at him.”
“OK," I said. “Keep me posted.”
The next day, there was no word from Simon. By the time I got home from work, I was starting to panic.
As the night wore on, I came to the sick realization that I had no way to find Simon. I’d met Scott -- the friend he'd been staying with while his house was fixed -- but I didn’t know where Scott lived either. The only real information I had about Simon was his cell phone number and email address.
Three days after Simon vanished, I got a call from a number I didn't recognize.
A woman’s voice. “Is this Andie?”
“Yes it is. Who’s this?”
She ignored my question. “Is Simon with you?”
“No he’s not. Do you know where he is?” I asked anxiously, thinking she might be one of his friends or colleagues.
“No,” the woman said. “I got your number from Simon’s cell phone records. My name is Leah. I’m Simon’s wife.”
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. "His wife?"
“You didn't know he was married?”
“No,” I said, still not wanting to believe what was happening. “He said he was divorced, and his ex-wife lived in England.”
“His ex-wife does live in England. I’m married to Simon now.”
I choked back tears. How could I have been so stupid?
It turned out that nearly everything Simon told me was a bald-faced lie, even the part about Rugby getting hit by a car. The nights he told me he was working late, he was at home with Leah.
I went home that night, poured a glass of wine, and called some friends to tell them what had happened with Simon. Everyone responded with variations of “Oh my God what an ASSHOLE!”
The hurt was overwhelming. I cancelled appointments with clients and sat in my apartment, numbing myself with Xanax. I camped out on the couch, not wanting to sleep in the bed where he had slept. I was a complete wreck.
A couple of days went by, and finally I faced the fact that I needed to kick myself in the ass and move on. I slowly returned to my normal routine, feeling empty and emotionally decimated.
Simon had been gone for nearly a month when my grief finally hit the anger stage. I took to my blog and wrote a scathing account of my relationship with Simon, posting a nice clear headshot of his stupid smiling face.
“This man is a coward and a pathological liar,” I wrote. “DO NOT believe a word he says.” I hoped that my blog might help warn other women who had the misfortune to cross paths with Simon.
Nine months later, I was contacted by a woman in England named Jo who had seen my blog post.
“I’ve just been done over by Simon too. He broke my heart and swindled nearly $28,000 from me.”
I was astounded. I emailed her, wanting to know more.
Jo wrote back saying that she lived in a small village in Somerset, England and that she met Simon in September of 2008 (just one month after he disappeared on me) while he was waiting tables at her local pub. Simon asked her out, and soon they began dating exclusively.
Simon told Jo he had recently returned to the UK after several years in the States, where he still owned a number of properties. He said was in the process of liquidating his assets in the US and he’d just taken the job at the pub temporarily until he could get all of his properties sold off. He told Jo his dream was start up a company selling rock climbing equipment.
After discussing it at length, Jo gave Simon the funding to start his company, with the understanding that he would pay her back as soon as his money from the States came through. Just weeks later, she was shocked to discover that Simon had another girlfriend in a neighboring village.
Jo confronted Simon and they had a heated argument. Simon disappeared the next day, leaving her with a staggering amount of debt. Desperate to recover her money, Jo did an internet search on Simon and up popped my blog.
My heart ached for Jo. I wrote back, telling her that if I heard anything more about Simon I’d let her know.
A year later, in the summer of 2010, another curious comment appeared on my blog. This one was from an Englishwoman named Nicola who wrote, “I think I’m dating this toe rag right now.”
I emailed Nicola and she wrote back with the story of her involvement with Simon. They'd met on a dating site and had been together for a month when Nicola noticed some things about her new boyfriend that didn’t add up. She did an Internet search and found my blog.
I wrote back, telling her, “Interestingly enough, I have someone you should contact,” and supplied her with Jo’s email address.
A few days later Nicola emailed me back with some remarkable news. She and Jo had joined forces and tracked down another woman named Laura who was currently dating Simon. The three of them hatched a plan to confront him at Laura’s home and make him own up to his lies. As a bonus, a journalist friend of Nicola's agreed to be on-hand to videotape the entire confrontation.
The plan came together brilliantly: Simon arrived at Laura’s house, walked into her living room and came face-to-face with a man brandishing a video camera, then Jo and Nicola calmly came downstairs and sat on the couch. Laura joined them in the living room and they spent the next three hours grilling Simon.
He confessed to borrowing Jo’s money under false pretenses without any means to pay her back, which legally constituted fraud. The interrogation concluded with Simon agreeing to turn himself in to the authorities. Laura phoned the police and he was taken away in handcuffs.
In March 2011, Simon was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 30 months in jail. The British tabloids picked up on the story and went wild with the tale of “Simon the love rat.” I was contacted by NBC and flown to New York to appear on The Today Show with Jo, Nicola, and Laura where the four of us were interviewed by Savannah Guthrie in a live segment on March 17, 2011. It was exciting and very surreal.
To date, our story has also been featured on 20/20 and Who the Bleep Did I Marry? Laura, Jo, Nicola and I have all moved on to new lives and new loves. Thankfully, none of us ever heard from Simon again.