Empowerment Series: Television Documentary Producer, Emmy Award-Winning News and Documentary Writer, Benita Alexander Shares her Lovecon with AW (As Seen on the Dr. Oz Show, ABC’s 20/20)
The power of love cannot be denied, the mighty connection can make us feel, as if we had wings to fly. Losing love abruptly or forcefully has the potential to cause significant mental and physical harm. Its strength can move mountains or leave destruction in the aftermath of a lover’s deception, destroying the emotional health of its victims. However, despair can be alleviated by taking your power back.
Benita Alexander is a strong, independent, intelligent, warm, and loving woman who thought she found her love connection with a man that swept her off her feet, much like prince charming! In 2013, the successful documentary producer met world-renowned, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini while working on a project for a major network. He was listed as one of top 20 most innovative doctors in his field, a brilliant thoracic surgeon. The man was personable, romantic, intelligent, witty, and seemed to be a respected member of the medical community with no evidence to show otherwise. He charmed his way into Benita’s life by taking her to exotic places, wildly expensive restaurants, shopping sprees, and giving her undivided attention. The perfect fantasy was created, leading her to fall head over heels in love. The trail of roses leading to a lavish proposal was icing on the cake. She had the perfect guy asking to spend the rest of her life with him. Lucky girl? Not quite.
The bigger than life fairytale lasted almost 2 years. Believing it was a match made in heaven, she allowed herself to give into love. He was almost too good to be true – could it be that he was? Sadly, the man depicted, the one her friends and family came to know had a dark secret. Everyone was about to find out the charming surgeon lied about everything, uncovering a mastermind plan of deceit. In the most devious way, Benita discovered she was loveconned. The truth felt like a sucker punch to the stomach but she fought back. She set aside her pain in exchange for the journalist hat, it was the only way to save herself from complete destruction. The decision to share her story with the world helped stop him from doing the same to other women and empowered her to get freed.
The end to Benita’s romance unraveled six weeks before the wedding of the century. The supposed blissful event he had been planning was completely untrue. There was no venue, caterer, or castle for guests to stay in Italy. The designer custom invitations and dresses she paid for out of pocket and was never reimbursed. Her dream slowly toppled, instead becoming a true-crime drama series. The surgeon left her in debt, anguish and heartbreak with only false claims that included lies about his separation, living arrangements and family. The devastation was immeasurable but the fierce, courageous wonder of a woman she is, helped bring her back from the ruin.
My interview with Benita Alexander was an eye-opening conversation. Her story has been shared on shows like Dr. Oz to inform women about the pitfalls of this scheme. It wasn’t until our call that I understood how possible it is for anyone to fall for a con. Having gone through my own small-scale version of a lovecon years go, I felt it was essential to pass on information that could improve our radar and protect you from similar predators.
Firstly, what is a Lovecon? A lovecon is different than cheating or having an affair. When this kind of predator enters a relationship with someone, from day 1, there are nefarious or evil intentions. It is a relationship where one partner is roped into complete deception. The con is to make you think they are someone else other than the real thing by using manipulation and calculated schemes. Each con artist comes with their own motivation and not always has expectations of material gain.
You fell head-over-heels in love, got engaged, quit a high profile, successful career. You introduced him to your daughter and maintained a courtship for 2 years. When did you realize he was lying? Did your woman’s intuition nudge you at anytime hinting something was wrong? Initially, no. He did not give me any reason to suspect foul play. However, 6 months prior to the scheduled wedding date, I sensed a “nagging feeling in my gut.” By that time, invitations had gone out, guests were preparing to travel, all the details for the big day were in place. I did not want to believe there was anything wrong with my perfect guy. I was in love and we were about to get married!
I am not a person of regrets, believing everything happens for a reason but if you could go back, would you do anything, differently? I don’t live in regret either, think in some warped way this could not have happened to a better person. Once out of the love haze, I was able to go into journalist mode and bring this story out into the open. It was difficult to accept this super-surgeon, the man I loved could hurt me, so terribly. I imagined if something like this happened, it was for me to do something about it. I knew that if he was lying about his personal life, there had to be deception in the professional area, too and I was going to blow the lid off it.
For the women reading this interview, can you provide some signs to look out for, to avoid a possible lovecon? I was an investigative journalist, a mom, a woman in love but also vulnerable. Who doesn’t want their own love of a lifetime – the fairy tale? When it happened, I gave up a job at a major network, pulled my daughter out of school because the plan was to relocate to Barcelona after our wedding. I was getting my Disney ending, we grow up believing that is the fantasy we need. These men are predators, who carefully study their prey. They know who they can target and have a vulnerability radar.
3 Signs (red flags) to Look Out for:
- If he seems too good to be true, he probably is. Pay attention to what he says and does in the relationship. Take off the rose-colored glasses and keep your eyes wide open.
- He moves at warp speed! Saying “I love you” after 3 weeks or wanting to marry you after a month, may be something to be cautious about.
- He wants all of you without revealing anything about himself. These individuals tend to be very guarded. They don’t want you to insert yourself in their work or personal lives. The inability for you to visit or always get an excuse that avoids his apartment, office or place of work can signal trouble. It is unlikely that you will meet his family or friends. Do not underestimate the importance of knowing where he lives and meeting the people in his life.
In an interview you stated that you felt humiliated, heartbroken and embarrassed when having to deal with internet trolls that blamed you for his deceit. Love can be blind, there are people who are exceptionally good at lying. After all that pain, what finally made you go public with your ordeal? Although, not prepared for the backlash and internet bullying received from others calling me stupid, naive gold-digger, I knew the con had to be exposed. This experience made me stronger and things happen for a reason. We have to find the will and courage to speak up, especially when people want to silence you.
I have learned that the things that happen are meant to teach us something. What did you learn from this terrible experience? I am stronger than I realized, have always been determined but now I can set an example for others. This ordeal gave me a mission to empower women. We need to help each other rise, encourage and inspire others on this journey. The only way to become collectively strong is by supporting one another.
I like to finish interviews with a positive quote or mantra that inspires or empowers women. Do you have some words to share about getting through difficult moments after living the ordeal? I always liked comparing myself to Wonder Woman, like a mini-WW. In my lowest moments, I look at my poster of this powerful figure to remind myself of the strength I hold within. I am powerful, strong and fierce, though not easy to be brave, incredibly worth it.
Most of us have heard stories about romance scams. Networks such as ABC, Oxygen, Lifetime, Discovery have created shows and movies around the lovecon headlines. In 2019, the FBI reported 20,000 complaints mounting close to $500M. The negative stigma pertaining to victims’ gullibility, makes them feel ashamed or embarrassed. This discourages reporting the crime, therefore, numbers could be higher.
The kindest act we can perform for another women is to share stories that assist empowerment and protect against any trickery. In addition, it’s good to practice empathy when any of us are victimized. Support each other during difficult times to promote healing and compassion.
Love can make us believe and do the craziest things. If you’ve been in love, you know that the power of it can drag you for miles on its romantic highway. Ultimately, we all want the same thing – love. Not having it can sometimes make people susceptible to falling for scams. As with any relationship, it’s key to remember that love for another should never overshadow the love for ourselves. The best you can do on an ongoing basis is nurture self-love and shield yourself by practicing awareness.
AW is incredibly grateful to Benita for being bold enough to speak out. Hopefully, encouraging openness will inspire others to do the same.
If you’d like to find out more about lovecons, head to Benita’s Instagram @loveconned
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