Conman fooled British woman, 61, to fly to the US with 'fake promises'

Conman fooled British woman, 61, to fly to the US with promises of a new life before he scammed her out of £20,000 and left her penniless and without a job

  • Ruth Tunnicliffe, 61, says she was lured to the US by American Peter McMahon
  • She thought she was going to become an executive at his film empire
  • But in reality she lost £20,000 and a job running a mob-linked bar in Brooklyn
  • She said ‘He sold me the American Dream, but I had an American nightmare’

A British woman says she was duped by a conman into flying to America with the promise of becoming a film empire executive – but was left a barmaid and hoodwinked out of £20,000.

Ruth Tunnicliffe, 61, claims she was conned by Peter McMahon who claimed to work in the movie industry in the US and promised her a job running his office in the UK.

He claimed to be a media mogul and lured her with the promise of a luxurious lifestyle working for his empire, splitting her time between London and New York.

But it was all a con and Ruth ended up being forced to flee America when McMahon became abusive and she was trapped into running a bar in Brooklyn with links to the mob.

Ruth said: ‘He sold me the American Dream, but what I had instead was an American nightmare.

‘You read about this in magazines, I thought I’d never be that stupid. But I fell for his lies and for his charm.

‘He could talk the backside off anyone, he was full of it. I feel so stupid that I had been used like that.’

McMahon first contacted Ruth over Facebook in 2010 when she was going through a divorce.

Ruth Tunnicliffe, 61, says she was lured to the US by American Peter McMahon in 2011

She said on McMahon:  ‘He sold me the American Dream, but I had an American nightmare’

She initially ignored his messages, but replied one night after a few glasses of wine and the pair struck up conversation.

After exchanging messages for a few months, McMahon convinced Ruth to fly to Tennessee to discuss his ‘job offer’ in February 2011.

McMahon asked Ruth to pay for meals and accommodation during her stay, promising to pay her back when money he was expecting came though.

The scheming shyster even hid her passport and told her she would be in trouble with the authorities for outstaying her working holiday visa.

Ruth added: ‘I hadn’t seen a clear photograph of him at that point and I thought ‘what the hell do I do if I get there and he’s not real?’

‘He was there when I landed at Nashville airport and he was exactly as I had imagined.

‘He wasn’t an oil painting by any means, but he had an aura about him, he came across like a very powerful man.

‘We had a meal and he asked if I could pay the bill. Then we went to see a friend of his in a trailer park, it was a complete dump.

‘When I was due to fly home, I couldn’t find my passport so missed my flight and had to stay in America.

He lured Ruth’s daughter to the states under a fake offer that he could land her a modelling contract. But when she landed at JFK airport, she was turned away by immigration officials

‘He suggested we drive to New York and told me he couldn’t go out of Tennessee with his driving licence, so I had to hire the car in my name.’

When they reached New York, they stayed with his sister in Staten Island, who Ruth says was ‘shocked’ to see him.

While they were there, McMahon’s sister found Ruth’s passport under her sofa.

McMahon convinced Ruth that because she had outstayed her visa, she would be in trouble if she tried to fly home.

He lured Ruth’s daughter to the states under the pretence that he could land her a modelling contract.

But when she landed at JFK airport, she was turned away by immigration officials because the offer was bogus.

McMahon became nasty and Ruth says she saw him con people out of money by pretending to hold events to raise money for charities.

Ruth added: ‘He struck up a conversation with a jockey at a racecourse, promising to be her agent and take care of her interests and demanded a retainer fee up front.

‘He was telling her all these things and I thought ‘I’ve heard all this crap before’.

‘He became angry with me if I asked questions while we were driving and would hit me.’

Eventually, the pair took over a bar in Brooklyn after McMahon convinced the manager to let him run it.

The pair had nowhere to stay and spent one night on the floor of an abandoned warehouse.

During this time, Ruth hatched a plan to escape and made a break for freedom one day by pretending to get something from the car which was parked a few blocks from the bar.

She ran to a nearby police station and told cops about her ordeal, but when officers went to the bar to quiz McMahon, he had fled.

Ruth added: ‘I left the bar, my legs were like jelly and I ran like hell. I opened the boot of the car and there was a gun in there which I didn’t even know of.

‘Even now thinking of it makes my legs shake. I ran into the police station and burst into tears and told the police everything.’

Ruth returned to the UK a few days later without a penny to her name and no job to go back to.

McMahon was never brought to justice for what he did to her, but in 2015 he was in court charged with fraud after allegedly duping bands into paying to perform at a fake music festival in New York.

He reportedly charged musicians as much as $240 to take the stage at a four-day, 36-band music festival on Staten Island, to raise money for an autistic children’s charity.

Public records show McMahon has a criminal record in Nashville, Tennessee., where he was convicted of felony theft of services in 2010 and received a two-year suspended sentence.

Ruth, who is penning a book about her ordeal, added: ‘I feel so stupid that I fell for him, fell for his lies. It seemed too good to be true and it was.

‘It got to the point where I couldn’t escape. My mum had to pay for my flight home and I’m still paying my credit card debt off that I racked up in those seven months.

‘I spent about £10,000 of my own money and spent £10,000 on my credit card in total.

‘I want other women to be aware of men like this and make sure he doesn’t do this to anyone else.

‘How many other people has he scammed and conned out of money?’

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