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Karla had been married for 39 years when she left her husband and family and ran away with a man she met while singing karaoke.
After allegedly clearing out her husband Jim’s 401(k), she and her new love set off to Wichita, where they used the money to open a seafood restaurant, Krab Kingz, in February 2018, according to the new Showtime docuseries “Love Fraud.”
But the romance wouldn’t last and Richard Scott Smith — known to Karla as “Rick” — cleared out, allegedly taking money from the restaurant’s accounts, bouncing all the employees’ paychecks, and adding Karla to a growing list of women who'd allegedly been conned by the sweet-talking, charismatic chameleon.
But just what happened to Karla, her burgeoning new restaurant and her marriage to Jim?
It appears the restaurant hit hard times.
In a post on Facebook in April, Krab Kingz management wrote that the restaurant would have revised hours in light of the coronavirus pandemic and would only be operating on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but when Oxygen.com called the restaurant’s phone number it appeared that the number was no longer in service.
A June article in The Wichita Eagle also said the restaurant’s future was “not looking hopeful” after the restaurant’s sign was taken down and it appeared that all the décor had been taken out of the dining room.
While the restaurant’s fate remains unclear, Karla and Jim may have gotten their happy ending together after all.
According to the docuseries, the couple made the decision to reunite and are seen slow-dancing and kissing in a bar after Karla sings an impassioned rendition of “Nights in White Satin” to her crying husband.
But the couple’s sweet embrace was a stark contrast from how their story was first introduced in the first episode of the docuseries, as a newly dumped Jim questions what went wrong in his decades-long marriage.
“We’ve been together for 39, 40 years probably. That’s a long time and I um, I love her, but she started singing karaoke,” he said. “She’d come home, she was practicing karaoke constantly, in bed she’d be singing.”
At first, Jim said Karla would come home from her nights singing around town around 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. but “then it got to be midnight” and soon she was calling him to say that she was going to spend the night at a friend’s house because she was “too tired to drive home.”
“One day my phone rang. It was her. And she says, ‘I want a divorce.’ And then it hit me, I thought ‘Wait a minute ... something ain’t right.’ I said, ‘I’m going to the bank,” he recalled in “Love Fraud.” “So I ran, I got in my car, and ran to the bank accounts and got my ATMs and all my money was gone. There was $80 left in my bank account.”
A few days later, Jim got a message from an unidentified woman, warning him about the man his wife had run off with.
“It says, ‘Just wanted to let you know that the guy that your wife is messing with is just after your money. This is very important if you want to save your family,’” he said in the docuseries.
The woman identified the man as Richard Scott Smith, a serial online dater who often moved quickly in relationships. Within months, he often proposed or got married to the women he claimed to love—in some cases tying the knot even though he was still married to someone else—and then allegedly left the women penniless after ruining their credit and gaining access to the money in their bank accounts.
One of the women in the docuseries claims to have ended up in debt up to $750,000 after her romance with Smith, according The Kansas City Star.
But rather than invest the money, the docuseries' filmmakers told the paper that Smith usually used the money or credit to sweep his next target off her feet.
One of the women who was manipulated by Smith, Lisa Lenton of Georgia, later created a website dedicated to warning others about her one-time husband’s devious ways, which served as a central resource for information among his other alleged victims.
When Jim learned that his wife had opened up a restaurant in Wichita with the money she'd taken, he was furious.
“I lost it. I go, ‘this is nuts.’ And I said, ‘I am going to beat the living s--t out of him,’” he recalled in the docuseries. “I called her (and) I told her, ‘You tell that piece of s--t I would blow is f---ing brains all over town.”
Jim’s friend eventually convinced him to ignore his violent impulses and urged him to go on with his life instead.
“So, I sat there and I thought about it, boiling mad, you know, I calmed down and you know I said ‘You’re right, but I still want my wife back.’”
In Wichita, Karla and "Rick" were busy preparing to opening Krab Kingz, hiring staff and promoting the new restaurant in local media.
An article in The Wichita Eagle at the time noted that the restaurant planned to offer both boiled and fried seafood options and had a dining room equipped to seat up to 64 people.
Karla had longed to have her own seafood restaurant ever since a trip to New York when she dined at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant.
“I fell in love with it,” she said in the docuseries. “We go in and my mouth drops. I am so taken by the smell, the look, oh man, the taste, the buttery taste, and I said ‘I’d love to have a restaurant like this one day.’”
While Jim was in agony about his wife’s new love, Karla was smitten with the man with a “vivacious personality” that she met during her karaoke nights.
“He came up to me and he said, ‘I am going to sing this one song, and I think it was that Tim McGraw one. He goes, ‘I am going to walk down onto the dance floor and I want you to come take my hand,’” she recalled in the docuseries of the start of the romance. “After he gets done singing, he goes, ‘I want to go out with Karla. I want to date Karla.’ It’s Karla all day long.”
Karla admitted she knew about the website warning women about Smith, but decided to pursue the romance anyway.
“He had already told me it was a witch hunt,” she said. ‘He said, ‘Karla, I know how you are, but you got to trust me.’ I didn’t know whether to believe that or not. If they had something on him, wouldn’t he go to jail?”
While Karla said she had been “crazy” about Jim during their 39-year marriage, she was also “sad most of the time” and yearned for more affection.
“I wanted him to, you know, hold me and be more loving, but he didn’t want to,” she said.
She decided to leave her marriage behind and head off with Smith, but he wouldn’t turn out to be the white knight she had envisioned.
Another woman who worked at the restaurant, referred to as Tammy in the docu-series, told producers that Smith, who was known as “Mickey” to his employees, soon began to woo her.
Smith insisted that there was nothing going on between him and Karla.
“One night after work we all went to the club, and we were all kind of joking with Mickey about Karla because I assumed that they were married. And he was like, almost flipped out that I said that, and he would just call her a freak, you know, ‘She just doesn’t get it, I don’t want anything to do with her. I do not like her,’” she recalled.
On the day of the grand opening of the restaurant in February 2018, Smith arrived with flowers, but they weren’t for the woman he had convinced to leave her husband behind; instead they were for his new love interest.
Tammy said the pair went on several dates, but she soon found him coming on too strong.
She said he left a series of messages and texts professing his love for her, telling her “I love you more than anything in this entire world,” “the most important thing to me is you,” and “I really miss you,” but the overly dramatic notions failed to impress Tammy.
“It was just creepy. It was odd,” she said. “And then just all of a sudden, he just like disappeared off the face of the earth.”
After Smith disappeared, every employee discovered their paycheck had bounced and Karla was left scrambling to try to close joint bank accounts and remove Smith from the business accounts.
“I went through a lot because of Rick. He seemed like he basically wanted me to get this business going so he can make whatever and book it,” she said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet thing for me, because he lived off other people’s dreams and he makes people’s fantasies come true.”
Karla’s romance with Smith may have soured, but her husband was still waiting and willing to take his wife back.
“When you love somebody you always hope for the best because you always hope it will work,” Jim said. “She went out on me, but you’re supposed to be able to forgive and I love her.”
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