TORONTO – In an episode of Dr. Phil that aired Wednesday, Saskatoon widow Gilda Hamilton learned she was taken for nearly $200,000 by a man pretending to be in love with her.
Hamilton, 65, appeared in the California studio of the popular daytime show with her son Cary and daughter-in-law Linda. Her son Paul joined the conversation via weblink.
She told Dr. Phil McGraw how she fell in love with a man named “Eric Layne” whom she met online in July 2012.
The two never met or spoke on the phone but, in a series of web-based text message conversations over the past year, the mysterious suitor convinced Hamilton to wire him money.
“I didn’t even keep track,” Hamilton said of the money she transferred to “Eric.”
She sent him topless photos, had explicit text conversations (“I think it would be better if u allow ur sexy a** to be spanked,” he once wrote to her) and even discussed marriage.
But “Eric” insisted he needed more money before he could come to Saskatoon from London, England. He promised repeatedly to repay the funds.
She used life savings, maxed out her credit card and sold her home to come up with the funds “Eric” wanted her to send to him via Western Union.
Hamilton’s sons told McGraw they feared their mother was going to end up bankrupt and homeless.
One of her text messages to “Eric” said: “If my sons find out about this; they will be so angry with me until the funds are returned.”
On Dr. Phil, Hamilton was told “Eric” was a catfish – an online imposter – who swindled her out of more than $191,000.
Doug Kane, a private investigator hired by the show, discovered the photos of “Eric” were, in fact, of Colorado lawyer James Avery – who appeared on the episode to assure Hamilton he was not involved in the fraud.
A home in the U.S. that “Eric” claimed was his residence actually belongs to a psychiatrist who told McGraw he had never heard of “Eric Layne.”
Hamilton’s husband John passed away in December 2009 after battling ALS. They had been married 43 years.
She told McGraw she turned to online dating sites like ChristianMingle.com and Match.com in hopes of finding someone.