Woman suffered ‘transatlantic hell ride’ as ‘hostage’ to US fraudster
A woman spoke of her eight-month relationship with an American “fraudster” who she said stole her passport and kept her captive in the United States.
Ruth Tunnicliffe was 50 years old and living in Cornwall when her relationship with Peter McMahon began in late 2010.
She was a vulnerable divorcing mother of three when she began receiving Facebook messages from McMahon promising her “a whole new life.”
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Instead, after bombarding her with messages, she claims he tricked her £ 20,000 and became so violent that a police officer told her she “almost ended up in a body bag” , reports the Daily Star.
Ruth says he initially harassed her on Facebook and constantly tried to communicate with her before she gave in and responded. He apparently promised her overseas business opportunities, including a modeling contract for his daughter.
Ruth said: “He had the gift of chatter, he was completely charming – promising all kinds and that’s how it started.”
Several months later, after talking every day, Ruth booked a ten-day round trip trip to Nashville, leaving on February 16, 2011.
At first, she says, they were both “head over heels in love” and everything was romantic as they traveled across America together.
She said: “He was fun, he was very, very popular and everywhere we went people seemed to know him and he introduced me as her fiancé. He was so convincing about everything and said we were going to have a life. amazing and build this business together. “
Ruth did not return to the UK on her scheduled flight when, the day before she returned home, her passport disappeared.
They continued to explore the States and during their adventures Ruth paid the cost of every hotel and restaurant.
She said, “It was about two to three months of fun and living it on my credit card.”
Once funds started to run out in April 2011, Ruth grew increasingly scared of her partner and claims he would turn violent if she said the wrong thing.
Ruth said: “I knew I had to get away from him somehow because he was turning against me all the time and getting more and more violent. He was pinning me against the car seat. with his hands around my throat and he just turn me on if I ask questions. “
It was in April that she finally found her passport hidden in her sister’s house during a visit, after he had been missing for two months, since February.
To make ends meet, the couple started working at a bar in Nashville, but she alleges that McMahon made a deal with the bar owner and that instead of a salary, the owner paid expenses that included hotel costs and bar food.
When they weren’t staying in a hotel, Ruth said they lived in her car and she knew she had to find a way out.
Since they lived and worked together, she knew that escaping wouldn’t be easy and hatched a plan that relied on the lack of available parking.
Ruth explained, “I thought if we couldn’t find a parking space outside the bar we would have to go two blocks and I could tell I left something in the car.”
Luckily everything was lined up and there was no parking space nearby and Ruth made her compelling excuse to find the car.
She recalled “shaking from head to toe” as she fled the bar, got her suitcase out of the car and found the nearest police station in Nashville.
Ruth remembers collapsing to the “heaped” floor and screaming for help as soon as she entered the station and was taken to a side room by a policewoman who overheard her story.
She said: “The woman just held me and said, ‘Honey, if you hadn’t left it, you would have left this country in a body bag.”
From there, she was able to leave McMahon and stay with her sister who helped her flee the country.
She claims police set up a surveillance car in front of her sister’s house as she waited for her flight home in October 2011.
Ruth said the last thing McMahon said to her was, “You’ll never get your money back, you stupid Englishman.” It was trying to call her when she was back on British soil.
McMahon’s whereabouts are unknown and he has not been arrested or charged over Ruth’s allegations.
American news site, SiLive.com, reports that he was arrested in 2016 for fraud after creating a bogus benefit for children with autism in Staten Island, New York.
They also report that prior to meeting Ruth in 2010, McMahon was convicted of “theft from criminal services” and was sentenced to two years in prison.
He was accused of stealing “fees” from 36 bands he had hired to perform at the event.
Ruth remarried and lives in Leeds.
During confinement, she wrote a book about her ordeal that she is about to publish.
She wants to raise awareness about romance fraud and sharing her story hasn’t been easy, but she thinks it’s necessary.
Ruth said: “There is a very high emotional cost to all of this, but my story needs to be told.”
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