A woman who thought she was going to be living the "American dream" was told by police that she "nearly ended up in a body bag" after she fell for a fraudster allegedly kidnapped her overseas.
Brit Ruth Tunnicliffe, 61, claims she was duped out of £20,000 after falling for a violent criminal who promised her a "business opportunity" when she was living in Cornwall.
Instead he took her on a "transatlantic hell ride".
The mum-of-three, who was fifty at the time, said she was going through a divorce with her now ex-husband when alleged fraudster Peter McMahon targeted her online and promised her a "whole new life" at the end of 2010.
She said that he started stalking her on Facebook and bombarded her with messages until she finally caved in and answered "for a laugh" while she was sat down with her daughter whom he promised a modelling contract.
"He had the gift of the gab, he was completely charming – promising all sorts and that's how it started," she said.
After exchanging phone numbers and talking every day, the alleged fraudster persuaded her to come to Nashville so she booked a ten-day return ticket on February 16, 2011.
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Describing the moment they met at the airport she said: "To start with we were head over heels. It was so romantic."
"He was fun, he was very very popular and everywhere we went people seemed to know him and he would introduce me as his fiancé.
She added: "He was so convincing about everything and said we were going to have an amazing life and build this business together."
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Ruth went on to say that the couple were travelling around America and said he tricked her into paying for hotels which meant she never actually got to stay in his home.
The mum-of-three said she was unable to get back to her children after her passport went missing one day before her flight – which meant she was trapped in the USA.
"It was about two to three months of fun and living it up on my credit card," she said.
Ruth was "rapidly running out of money" and started to see a switch in her partner around April when she started to run low on funds.
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The terrified mum said she was "completely broken" and knew that if she spoke out of line – it would trigger a brutal attack.
"I knew that I had to get away from him somehow because he was turning on me all of the time and getting more and more violent," she said.
"He would pin me up against the car seat with his hands around my throat and he would just turn on me if I asked any questions."
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After months and months of picking up the tabs to eat and her credit card pin being "burrowed", Ruth finally found her passport when the pair went to visit his sister's house some time in April.
They started to work in a bar to make ends meet and worked without a salary after the alleged fraudster proposed to the bar owner that he paid for their expenses instead.
"So that's how he got us hotels and we mostly ate food at the bar but most of the time we were sleeping in the car – which at one point was really hard," she said.
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Speaking about the day she plotted her escape she said: "I thought if we can't get a parking spot outside the bar we would have to go two blocks away and I could say that I've left something in the car."
Ruth went on to say that she was "praying to God" that there wouldn't be a parking spot so she could escape to a nearby police station.
Luckily, there was nowhere to park nearby which meant that she could put her plan to action and insist that she later went back to the car.
The mother, who was "shaking from top to toe", said she left the venue and ran to the vehicle to retrieve a tiny case that had her belongings hidden in it.
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"I got out, shut the car door and ran to the police station," she said.
"I remember it was a circular door and I went through this door and collapsed on the floor in a heap", ruth said as she took a deep pause.
Ruth desperately cried out for help in the Nashville police station and said that she relayed her terrifying ordeal to a police officer who took her to a room.
"The woman just held me and said 'honey if you hadn't left him you'd left this country in a body bag'."
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She claims that police arranged for surveillance outside of Mr McMahon's sister's house, so she could stay with her until the sister contacted her family to book a flight back to the UK in October.
Ruth said the fraudster tried to call her once she returned to the UK and said the last thing he said to her was: 'You'll never get your money back you stupid English f**k'.
She added: "He knew that I was divorced, he knew that I was vulnerable and he knew that I was probably low.
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"There is a very high emotional cost with it all, but my story has to be told."
Ruth is now happily married in Leeds and is getting ready to publish a book about her horror ordeal.
To keep up to date with her work visit her website here. You can find Ruth on social media @Rooth52 on Twitter.
Peter McMahon's whereabouts remains unknown.
According to American news site SiLive.com, he was arrested for allegedly creating a fake festival to benefit autistic children in Staten Island in 2016.
It was reported that he stole retainer costs from 36 bands who were meant to play at the four-day event.
Ruth would like to confirm that she has not been paid for this article and hopes her story helps other women who have been affected by romance fraud.
Are you a victim of romance fraud? Contact us with your story at [email protected]
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