The man on the phone had a south-New Jersey accent, a gift for gab and a low-key alpha male edge. He introduced himself as Pat, and said he was looking for love in his late 40s.
Pam Schmidt, a legally blind 46-year-old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, met the mystery suitor through the phone dating service Quest Personals in 2014. She thought he seemed sweet with an inquisitive charm.
During their first conversation, Pat told her he valued personality over physical appearance. No need to wear makeup, he said, inner beauty shines the brightest. He asked questions about her life, and listened intently.
“What’s a typical day like for you?” he wanted to know. “What are your hobbies? Where would you like to travel?”
When the subject turned to him, he described his beach house on the Jersey shore and his private plane, and suggested taking her on a trip someday. They talked for more than three hours, with Schmidt opening up about her weight loss battle and feelings of loneliness. She hung up feeling cautiously optimistic.
“He smooth-talked his way into my heart. He knew how to pull heart strings,” Schmidt, now 54, told me recently. “It seemed like he genuinely wanted to get to know me.”
But when Pat called her back a few days later, alarm bells went off. “He said he was jogging and $400 fell out of his pocket,” she said. When he asked her to wire him money, “It was like, ding, ding—red flag.”
Schmidt told Pat she lived on disability checks and couldn’t afford to lend him cash. “He said, ‘I accept you for who you are, why won’t you help me?’” But she hesitated and, “then he got angry.”
She ultimately refused to send him money, and reported the man, later identified as Patrick Giblin, to the Department of Justice. They knew him well.
Over the past three decades, scores of other women have fallen for his shrewd, psychologically astute love fraud schemes.
“He’s a smoothie, let me tell you.”
The pudgy, persuasive college dropout may be America’s most prolific romance scammer—allegedly swindling at least 155 women out of more than half a million dollars, according to cops, prosecutors and victims. The Daily Beast tallied the previously unreported number from court documents, press releases and newspaper clippings.
Giblin, now 58, has been sent to prison at least four times for the con—and has escaped federal custody twice. Both times, he committed the crime while on the lam, including as the pandemic stalled in-person dating.
In July, the deceptive Don Juan pleaded guilty to wire fraud in his most recent case. After decades of mostly slaps on the wrist, he now faces up to 25 years behind bars at his sentencing next month.
In a phone call from federal prison, Giblin told me he conned the women “to support my degenerate gambling habit.” He insisted that he deserves another chance at rehabilitation, and vowed to ban himself from casinos for life.
Schmidt’s not buying it. “He should be in prison for the rest of his life,” she said. “He’s a career criminal and a sociopath. If he gets out, he’s going to do it again.”
Long before the “The Tinder Swindler,” Richard Scott Smith or phony Nigerian princes, there was Patrick Giblin.
Giblin is an early pioneer of the “boyfriend scam,” which is now among the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. Last year, Americans reported losing $1 billion to romance scammers, according to the FBI. By contrast, the agency reported just $50 million lost annually a decade before that.
“It’s a words game,” said Kathy Waters, co-founder of the non-profit Advocating Against Romance Scammers. “Words of affirmation—for a lot of victims, that’s their love language.”
“These guys will sit there and listen for hours about a victim’s life, and they’re just gathering information, that’s how they pull them in,” she said. “It’s sick what they do.”
Giblin is rare because he works alone from inside the U.S., Waters said. She has never heard of a single person committing more romance scams than him. (A search of past media reports also yielded no one individual who has been caught doing more love cons.)
“I know where you live. I know where you work. You don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Over the past three decades, authorities say his scheme has gone like this: Find a single woman via a personal ad, singles chat line or internet dating service. Woo her with conversation designed to sniff out her personal fears and empathies. Then use a double-whammy of charm and pressure to convince her to wire money, ranging from $250 to $50,000 per victim.
Giblin is a master manipulator who has made a fortune spinning tailor-made tall tales—and weaponizing the emotional weak spots of women, according to prosecutors from past and current cases.
He’s creative and borderline compulsive about the scheme, previously keeping meticulous logs with notes on dozens of victims, according to prosecutors. Once he’d determined a woman “ready” to be scammed, he’d allegedly make a mark next to her name.
The long-game Lothario has posed as a law enforcement officer, the son of a prominent judge, a big winner at Casino, and a state lottery worker, according to prosecutors. Other times he played the role of a wealthy guy who’s simply down on his luck.
He has swindled heartbroken widows, single moms, and women with disabilities, according to authorities. Others were recently divorced, had been laid off or were grieving the deaths of sons or fathers.
They have ranged in age from 20 to 60 years old in at least 15 states including Texas, Ohio and New York—and as far away as the United Kingdom and Canada, according to police and prosecutors.
Giblin was first arrested for conning women in 1989, long before “romance scam” was even a term. That year, he was charged with convincing at least ten women in New York to run up large credit card bills for him then never repaying them, the Albany Daily Gazette reported decades ago. (The outcome and details of that case were unclear.)
In the following years, he racked up more than 30 convictions, largely for petty theft, along with a sexual assault in 1990, according to court records.
Giblin soon graduated from small-time crook to full-time fraudster. In 1995, he allegedly persuaded at least two victims to wire him money at a casino, and was busted targeting at least one more woman in 1997, police said.
“He’s a smoothie, let me tell you,” Detective Sgt. Ray Milham, who worked the case, told the Albany Times Union. He served nine months in jail for grand larceny in 1997.
“‘You’re a crook,’ the judge fired back.”
Once free, Giblin was quickly back to the same hustle. During a three-month period in 2001, he bilked $31,000 from 20 women nationwide after meeting them through a telephone dating service, according to police.
And those were just the victims willing to speak up. “[Some] were so embarrassed, even though they’re out a substantial amount of money, they don’t want to come forward,’’ Milham said.
In one of those cases, Giblin told a 52-year-old faux love interest he’d hit the jackpot at a casino and needed to borrow cash to pay taxes on it. In another, he charmed a 50-year-old lady from Guilderland, New York into loaning him money to fix his car. He disappeared with all the cash.
In June 2001, police tracked him to an Atlantic City casino and “he was arrested right at the poker table as a fugitive,” Guilderland Detective Sgt. William Ward said. He was 36 years old, living in a trailer with a woman in nearby Queensbury, New York.
Giblin pleaded guilty to two counts of grand larceny and ultimately blamed the crimes on his gambling addiction.
“I’m not a violent person,” he told Judge Thomas Breslin at his sentencing hearing in November 2001. “I’m a person who’s done stupid things to support my habit.”
He promised to pay back his victims and vowed to get treatment. Breslin sentenced him to the six months he’d already served and probation.
But within months, he was back at it—this time conning more women than ever.
Carolyn Corcoran first spoke to Giblin in October 2003 after a hellish year. The Houston, Texas mother had recently lost her only child in a head-on car wreck, had been laid off from work and was helping her father cope with terminal cancer.
Giblin, whom she met through Quest Personals, told her he’d gotten a job in the Lone Star State and planned to move to her area, Corcoran later testified in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. During a heart-to-heart, she mentioned a $20,000 payout she’d received from her late son’s life insurance policy.
Giblin soon claimed to be on the road heading to Houston, then called to report the tires on his SUV had blown out. He asked to borrow money for new ones and promised to pay her back when he arrived, she testified. She waited with anticipation but he never showed up.
A few weeks later, he called claiming he’d been arrested and asked for bail money, according to Corcoran. She agreed to help—but when she reached a $400 ATM withdrawal limit, Giblin instructed her to pull a grift of her own.
With an air of self-assured authority, he ordered her to buy a TV at Walmart with her debit card then return it at another Walmart for cash. When Corcoran drew the line, Giblin flew into a rage, she said.
He threatened to “knock off” her ailing father if she didn’t come up with the money, and she believed he was capable of it, she testified. Corcoran eventually sold her car and gave him the cash.
In total, Giblin took $18,000 from Corcoran, leaving her penniless. She had to borrow money for rent and couldn’t afford to buy food, she said.
“Prison workers accompanied him to the airport and watched him get on the plane, but he never showed up in Newark.”
Corcoran was one of at least 100 women Giblin swindled out of $400,000 from between 2000 and 2005 by posing as a potential boyfriend, federal prosecutors said. There was no way to know how many more he potentially scammed using aliases, federal authorities said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Giblin met some of his victims through the early aughts dating website Lavalife.com along with singles phone lines such as Intimate Connections and Private Lines. He courted them via email and often called from a payphone to avoid being tracked before disappearing with their dough, the authorities said.
“Giblin would promise to end the loneliness of a woman who had recently ended a long-term relationship or promise to soothe a woman who recently suffered the death of a loved one,” read his 2005 indictment.
When his charm didn’t work, he allegedly turned to threats.“I know where you live. I know where you work. You don’t want anything to happen to you,” he snapped at one woman, according to prosecutors.
To another, he allegedly growled, “I will kill you.”
Shirley Whitfield also fell for Giblin’s lies. The North Carolina woman had separated from her husband and was grieving her father, who had recently died of leukemia, when she met the faux-Romeo in 2001.
She longed for intimacy and was up front with Giblin about her health problems, including that she was legally blind and suffered from diabetes and obesity. “He promised me romance and led me to believe he was going to move to North Carolina,” she later testified. “He was a smooth, fast-talking Northerner.”
After several phone conversations, Giblin asked her for loans, “making it seem like it was a matter of life and death,” she said in court. He was so persuasive, she pawned her jewelry and laptop, and borrowed money from her aunt to help him.
“Giblin had made a log of their hobbies, physical descriptions and where they lived.”
When her brother suffered a heart attack, Giblin offered to travel with her to Georgia to care for him, if she’d lend him money for the trip. He ultimately took $20,000 from Whitfield, forcing her into bankruptcy.
Giblin was arrested—again—at a casino in Atlantic City in March 2005, and charged with 21 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and extortion.
At a court appearance that month, he “laughed throughout the brief hearing,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. He ultimately pleaded guilty to ten counts of wire fraud the next year.
At his sentencing hearing in April 2007, Sandra Bikhit, a cashier from Caesars Atlantic City casino’s cash-wiring service, told the court Giblin was her “most regular customer.”
She said he used a “test question” to collect wired money without having to show identification. And she described a time when Giblin scored cash from three victims in a single day. “After the third time, he actually went, ‘Yesss!’” Bikhit said, pumping her fist in the air. “That’s three in one day!’”
Corcoran spoke at the sentencing hearing, too. She said Giblin’s betrayal had shattered her faith in romantic love and left her destitute. “There will never be another man in my life,” she told U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler. “Patrick took everything I had. Self-esteem. Money. Everything.”
Whitfield asked the judge for a harsh punishment. “Emotionally, I will never be the same,” she said. “I want him to feel the pain, hurt, and agony of each and every one of us.”
In a rambling apology, Giblin faced his victims and admitted that he gambled away their money.
“I’m a greedy idiot who’s only concerned about one thing: myself,” he said. “I’m a complete loser.”
Kugler sentenced him to 9.5 years in prison and three years of parole.
“You need to stop stealing,” Kugler warned.
“I need in-patient treatment,” Giblin replied.
“You’re a crook,” the judge fired back.
Marilyn Tanner’s phone began ringing off the hook on Jan. 18, 2013. The calls were from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, warning the Albany woman that Giblin had escaped.
Tanner, who had lost $1,000 to Giblin years before, said she was flooded by 100 calls in four days. “I can’t stop them,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer. That week, she and other victims were bombarded by automated messages, reigniting past traumas and leaving them on edge.
Giblin had fled from a Philadelphia halfway house after being moved from the city’s federal prison. The Luzerne Treatment Center, which offered addiction therapy and work reentry training, had allowed him to leave without supervision to apply for a job, and he never came back, authorities said.
A month later, in February 2013, U.S. Marshals busted him in Room 106 of the Rodeway Inn, a budget hotel near a cluster of casinos in Atlantic City. There, they found a notebook with the names of women he’d met on telephone dating chat lines, according to court records.
Giblin had made a log of their hobbies, physical descriptions and where they lived, investigators said. “Has savings account,” he allegedly wrote next to one woman’s name. Next to another, he penned, “home paid off” and “not a golddigger.”
This time, Giblin served 10 months in prison for the escape and was set free on supervised release in December 2013.
“They went to Western Union with their own free will and sent me money.”
But he still hadn’t learned his lesson. Between January 2013 and December 2014—including while he was wanted as a fugitive—he swindled $40,000 from at least 10 women in five states, the New Jersey Department of Justice said in a press release.
Giblin pleaded guilty to one count of interstate travel and intent to launder money and was sentenced to five years behind bars in 2017.
Three years later, as the pandemic raged, Giblin escaped federal custody again. He was approved to be flown from a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to a halfway house in Newark, New Jersey with a stopover in North Carolina in July 2020.
Prison workers accompanied him to the airport and watched him get on the plane, but he never showed up in Newark, authorities said.
From April 2019 to March 2021—including while on the lam a second time—he scammed a total of $37,481 from 12 more women he met on telephone dating services, according to the U.S. District Attorney of New Jersey.
He allegedly told some of the women he had homes in their area and planned to move there. Giblin “convinced each victim that he was in a romantic relationship with her,” to get them to “send him money under false and fraudulent pretenses” via Western Union, according to a federal criminal complaint.
(It wasn’t clear how he was able to woo women while behind bars; prosecutors declined to comment on the pending case.)
Giblin was arrested again in the gambling hub of Atlantic City in March 2021, and charged with escape and wire fraud. In July, he pleaded guilty to both charges.
Now, after causing decades of heartbreak and financial distress, he faces up to 25 years in prison. He’s scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kugler—again—on Nov. 16.
In Giblin’s telling of the story, he’s a victim of his own powerlessness over gambling. He describes himself as “a very smart and intelligent person” and a “voracious reader” with a “totally outgoing” personality.
He says he grew up in a loving home with strict parents, and rarely got into trouble before his first trip to a New Jersey casino at age 19. The bright lights were thrilling and the rush of dopamine intoxicating, he said.
“I’ve never done drugs in my life, never even tried marijuana,” he told me. “But this became an obsession. I got hooked. It was the ultimate high.”
Giblin moved to upstate New York to escape the temptations of the Atlantic City strip while in his mid-20s, but the urge seemed to follow him everywhere.
“I moved there to get away from gambling and then what do I see? Horse betting on TV and I can place bets over the phone,” he told me, adding he took up the new vice. “I’d have $3 one day and $3,000 the next.”
Poker and blackjack were his games of choice. For brief stretches, he was known as a “high roller,” and courted by casinos from Atlantic City to Las Vegas, he said.
“She felt guarded and isolated, like someone had built a moat around her heart.”
“I was treated like royalty; they put me up in suites. I flew first class on planes to Vegas,” he said. “I never had to pay for a show ticket in Vegas. I saw Celine Dion… I was treated like a king.”
But like all gambling addicts, his luck eventually ran out, and so did his money.
By the early 90s, he was nearly broke with no apparent professional skill set, so began ripping people off.
During some of that time, he was living with a nurse girlfriend who had no clue he was conning women while she was at work, he said.
“Unfortunately, I have scammed and conned for many years. I am not happy about what I have done,” he said. “Yes, it has been thrilling, exciting and has also come with failures along the way.”
Asked about his victims, he said, “Nobody put a gun to these womens’ heads. They went to Western Union with their own free will and sent me money.”
“My lawyer said some of these women were a little bit naive and gullible and they wound up sending me money,” he said. “All the money that I took—it just happened.”
In a phone interview, Giblin vowed to take a “bunch of steps” to kick his gambling habit once and for all, including checking himself into inpatient rehab and banning himself from casinos for life.
He declined to comment on specific cases and situations— or why he expects Judge Kugler to believe his rehabilitation promise, considering his past history.
But he insisted that he has never had “inpatient treatment for compulsive gamblers before.”
“I could not afford the twelve-grand price tag for 30-day inpatient treatment,” he said.
Asked why he kept returning to the same con after scamming 155 women, Giblin said, “you have done your homework”—then stopped answering my questions.
These days, he listens to sports radio behind bars, fires off emails on a personal computer tablet and says he has “friends that help” him with money, he said.
“I am going to be okay,” he insisted. “I have a lot to look forward to when I get out.”
After Giblin tried to con Schmidt, she Googled him. He had used his real name, and it popped up in an article on lovefraud.com, which aims to expose “everyday sociopaths.”
“I found out who you are,” she told Giblin when he called back a few days later. “You belong back in jail.”
Schmidt was relieved after his arrest in December 2014—but the interaction bruised her belief in true romance. She felt guarded and isolated, like someone had built a moat around her heart.
“I’d wonder, “Is this guy I’m talking to scamming me?” she said. “It made me think, who wants me?”
These days, Schmidt’s found love with a long-term partner who is disabled like her. “I’m happy now,” she said. In an unlikely twist, the pair met on the same phone dating line where Giblin had spun his lies.
“I was ashamed at first but I’m not anymore,” she said of her brush with the scam. “These guys need to be stopped. It could happen to anyone.”