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'Con Artist Vigilante' helping Boynton Beach woman pursue justice

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Johnathan Walton, the "Con Hunter,"{ } and Mair Smyth (Johnathan Walton).

Florida continues to be ranked among the top states for cases of fraud, and seniors are often the target, according to a report by the FTC.

Many seniors might think if they believe they are the victim of a scam, reporting it to the police will lead to immediate action.

But one woman in Boynton Beach is finding out how slow and difficult the process is -- and getting the police to take your case seriously may be half the battle.

Now, in her fight to get justice and her money back, she is getting help from someone across the country, a man who calls himself a "con artist vigilante."

THE CON HUNTER

Johnathan Walton is a former journalist, now a reality show producer in Los Angeles, who found himself living through what seemed like a true-crime thriller story of his own.

In 2013, he met a woman who called herself Mair Smyth. She pretended to be Irish royalty and claimed she was set to inherit $5 million.

The two became fast friends, and through a series of confidence tricks, Walton says Smyth convinced him to "loan" her money so she could get through a legal battle for her inheritance.

Nearly $100,000 in loans later, Walton discovered the truth: Smyth wasn't an heiress, and was lying about the money she claimed was for loans. She was actually using the money to pay for part of a plea agreement for grand theft for stealing money from her employer.

Walton went to the police but was shocked at their response.

"The first thing the cop tells me is, 'This is not a crime. You gave her the money,'" Walton said. "Police initially turn victims away because in their mind there are so many other greater crimes -- murders, rapes, armed robberies. This seems like -- just go to civil court and file a lawsuit."

He realized if his con artist was ever going to be put behind bars, he had to get aggressive. So he did his own investigation, gathered evidence, uncovered more victims, and kept contacting the police until they took action.

"If you are the victim of a con you've got to gather evidence. you've got to gather emails, text messages, get bank records, and prove that money changed hands and find people who witnessed that," he said. "The greatest advice I've ever been given by law enforcement: you've got to call about your case every day."

Mair Smyth was eventually charged, tried, and convicted. She was given a five-year prison sentence.

But that vindication wasn't enough for Walton.

He went on a media blitz, sharing his story on network television and popular websites. Calling himself the Con-Hunter, he has produced multimedia content about his scammer, and how he fought back.

"By the time I'm done the world will know her many faces so she can't scam anyone again," one of his YouTube videos states.

And he's become a bit of a vigilante.

"It has awakened me to a new calling in my life," he said. "Some people play golf and tennis in their spare time. I hunt con artists."

Walton is now working with two dozen alleged victims of similar cons, offering free assistance, guiding them through the process of gathering evidence, and pressuring police.

One of those people is Carol Porter, a widow from Boynton Beach.

CAROL PORTER'S CASE

Carol Porter was reeling from the death of her husband Stuey when she says an acquaintance named Bina Fink moved in.

Stuey died from an aggressive form of brain cancer, and through her grief, Porter was trying to sort out her affairs and the $1 million estate he left behind.

That's when she says Fink became her best friend, convinced her that Porter's family was trying to get the money, and asked her to move from Boynton to Broward County, where Fink lived and worked.

Porter showed CBS12 News copies of text messages purportedly from Bina Fink, telling her she was trying to protect her.

"I thought she was looking out for me," Porter said.

According to police records, Porter says Fink convinced her to hire a new money manager and a lawyer that Fink recommended, and had her transfer nearly $800,000 to a new broker.

When Porter became suspicious and asked the broker to transfer the money back, she says thousands of dollars were missing: nearly $200,000.

Not sure what to think or do next, Porter started to research con artists on the Internet. That's when she found an article about Walton and sent him a message.

"Immediately there is a deep and profound connection with another victim," Walton said because we fell for the same thing and I know what they're feeling."

TEAMING UP

Walton started to help Porter gather evidence like bank records, and Fink's court records, which show she's been sued multiple times by people claiming she took money from them.

The "con hunter" helped Porter locate supporting witnesses for her case, and helped her to prepare statements to police. He also collected her old cellphones and sent them to a data recovery expert, so they could have access to old text messages.

Most of all, he helped Porter work up the courage to go to the police in the first place. She was initially afraid and embarrassed to report what happened to her -- something Walton says is common.

Because parts of the alleged con occurred in different counties, Porter went to two agencies: Boynton Beach Police and the Broward Sheriff's Office.

BSO confirms to CBS12 News that they are actively investigating the case, and have been for about a year. Emails sent from their detective to Porter indicate BSO is requesting bank records and looking into other potential victims.

But the response in Boynton Beach was much different, Porter and Walton said.

"[Police said] that they couldn't do anything, that I gave her the money," Porter said.

Boynton Beach Police tell CBS12 News they took down Porter's information and gave it to BSO.

Porter has been pleading with BBPD to do more, even appealing to the Mayor during public comment at a recent commission meeting.

A spokesperson for BBPD tells CBS12 News they followed up with Carol and will continue to "support the Broward Sheriff's Office with their investigation."

FINK'S RESPONSE

An attorney representing Bina Fink says she never scammed Carol Porter.

Bina Fink denies any and all accusations both civil and criminal," Eric Schwartzreich, attorney for Bina Fink, told CBS12 News. "There have been no criminal charges because Bina Fink has not committed any criminal offenses.

Fink works as an aide in the Broward County Mayor's office.

She identifies herself on social media as a correspondent for Hollywood.TV and a publicist for stars and politicians on her social media accounts.

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