real life

'I discovered my husband drained me of all my money to fund his secret life.'

What I remember most about the beginning of my relationship with James Alwyn Montgomery, my ex-husband, was how he pursued me.

He’d posted an ad in the America Online romance section—this was back when AOL ruled the Internet.

He sounded much more intriguing than most men—a former Australian Green Beret, a background in TV and movies, now negotiating with Atlantic City movers and shakers for his next big business venture. The reason for the ad? His wife had died, and his “grieving was complete.”

Reading James’ claims now, one could wonder why anyone—specifically me—would believe them. But this was before we could Google people to check them out. And it was before I knew that someone who proclaimed he was so head-over-heels in love with me could be lying.

When I met James in 1996, I was 40 years old, never married. Although I’d dated a lot of men, I’d never experienced anything like the attention this particular man lavished on me.

He called many times a day. He e-mailed me poetry. He sent faxes with mushy sentiments, complete with clip art of hearts and cupids. He proposed marriage within a week of meeting in me person. Why wasn’t this a huge red flag?

Mia Freedman speaks to Psychopath Expert and author David Gillespie about spotting a psychopath and dealing with one. Post continues after audio.

Since childhood, I’d heard about love at first sight. In fact, I knew people who had fallen in love right away and were still married. I’d been waiting for my chance at true love for years. I thought my time had come.

James told me how much he respected my talent, and how I would be such an asset to his business plans. We were a formidable team, he said, and he wanted me to benefit from the success that his ventures were sure to become.

Then, not long after he proposed, he also recommended that I invest in the business —$5000 would buy me a few percentage points of ownership.

So began the money drain.

James never asked for money for himself. All requests were presented as investments in our future. Every time he asked for money, it was because a business crisis had to be resolved immediately.

What I didn’t know was that he manufactured the crises so I wouldn’t have time to think about his request. And I also didn’t know, until after I left my husband, that much of my money was spent entertaining other women.

A year and a half after we married, I knew James was cheating on me. But by that time, my husband had drained my savings and maxed out my credit cards. I was in desperate financial straits, and one of his ventures, a Titanic exhibition, looked like it was actually going to work. I decided to ignore his infidelity until I got my money back.

Unfortunately, the Titanic sank again. Then I learned that James was not only cheating on me, but had a child with another woman. Then I found out that there were other women.

We also asked Gillespie how to spot a psychopath in the workplace. Post continues after video.

Video by MWN

My head was spinning. “What kind of person does this?” I asked my therapist.

When I finally filed for divorce I claimed successfully that he took $227,000 from me and left me with $60,000 worth of debt. I never recovered my money and had to declare bankruptcy, while James moved on.

But I’m okay now—I’ve recovered, remarried, and I exposed James for the fraud that he was.

I also have a new mission in life. I founded, a website that teaches people to recognise and recover from people like this. And I’ve written three books, including Red Flags of Love Fraud — 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath.

Donna Andersen is author of, a website that teaches people how to recognise and recover from sociopaths. She is also author of Red Flags of Love Fraud — 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath and Love Fraud — How marriage to a sociopath fulfilled my spiritual plan.

Donna is a guest on tonight’s episode of Insight at 8.30pm on SBS, which speaks to five women about discovering their partners’ secret lives.

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