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Meet Debby Montgomery Johnson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Debby Montgomery Johnson.

Debby, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Eight years ago, I received a phone call from my oldest son… “Mom, Dad, just died. I’m coming home to take care of everything.” I was at a meeting and had my phone off and got this voice message when I went to the first break from the meeting. You can imagine what was going through my head when I heard that. I had sent my husband of almost 26 years off on a business trip the day before, and he was supposed to come within two days. Life, as I knew it was completed, turned upside down.

I was now a “widow” (hate that word), a single mom of four, and got thrown into running an international vitamin supplement company that my husband started and hadn’t really shown me how to run. At the same time, I was still working full time in the Palm Beach County School District. Six months after Lou’s death, friends told me I need to “get a life,” and they wanted me to do something other than work 20 hours a day. Their solution was to go to online dating because it was “safe” and I could do it from the comfort of my home.

I took their advice and started on an incredible journey which ended up two years later in a very expensive scam – over $1 Million. Guilt, shame and getting no remedy from the FBI, law enforcement, or the dating sites put me in an emotional hole, and I put on the mask and became “The Woman Behind The Smile.” Good people go through terrible situations, wise people know when and how to let it go. Everything that happens to us helps us grow. 

While it may be hard to see it right away, the most important thing to do is to change your perception about your circumstances! I knew I didn’t want the badge of “victim” – I wanted to triumph over the scam and be a SURVIVOR!

I am dedicated to encouraging women to remove the mask of embarrassment and shame and to putting an end to victimization. I am a woman on a mission. In my book, “The Woman Behind the Smile” I share my personal experience with a love that turned into betrayal and financial disaster and I remove the mask of shame and show others how to do to the same.

Many of us have something, something we’re hiding, something we’re ashamed of, something that through no fault of our own or through our own making, something that we keep hidden and that, in turn, keeps us hidden, from each other and the world. I am committed to providing resources and tools to show women how to STAND UP in their power so that they no longer have to experience the terrible feeling of being a victim of fraud or betrayal.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Absolutely not, but it’s all been worth it. The hardship, the struggles, and the education I’ve received have been priceless.

At the beginning, I struggled with living without my spouse. I had a close relationship with my children, but three of the four were on their own and the youngest, a 15-year-old young man, was going through losing his dad and he didn’t want to talk to me because he thought it made me sad. I found that I had to reach out to others over time to talk through my emotions although I would have preferred to isolate and be “FINE” to the world.

When the online relationship scam was revealed, I had to deal with feeling stupid, used, and potentially broke. I was well educated, well trained, and a very kind person and trying to understand how someone could lie to me for two years was overwhelming at times. I also had struggled with letting anyone know what happened.

Being taken advantage of emotionally, financially and spiritually can leave anyone on the brink of giving up but I am either too stubborn or competitive to let that happen. I found that either no one talked about being a victim to online relationship scam or they didn’t know how to help you through it and that left me alone in so many ways.

My husband, Lou,  didn’t leave any corporate operating instructions, so I struggled to keep the company running – thank goodness I had resources and a good employment background to give me a foundation. I had been trained as a paralegal after college, a USAF Intelligence Officer, a Senior Bank Branch Manager, and a School Treasurer.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
In addition to running, an online vitamin supplement company providing Benfotiamine products (a synthetic Vitamin B-1 beneficial to people with neuropathy- typically diabetics), I am a victims advocate for women (and men) that have been taken advantage of by online relationship scammers.

I wrote my book, The Woman Behind The Smile – Triumph Over the Ultimate Online Dating Betrayal, in order to give victims and their families the “true” story about how intelligent, well-trained people can be totally taken in by an online “love.” I am most proud of being vulnerable and brave enough to STAND UP, SPEAK UP, and let others know that they need not beat themselves up for being manipulated by well trained, skilled scammers.

I am on the Board of Advisors of The Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams, SCARS, a Miami not-for-profit organization. We work with victims from around the world, and we’re establishing a working relationship with the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, Interpol, and other world organizations. I love speaking to women’s groups and especially to families of victims who are incredibly frustrated and just want to “commit their loved ones!”

Is there a quality or characteristic that has played an outsized role in your success?
Vulnerability and a willingness to own my story and STAND UP in my own POWER!


  • My book is available on for $14.95

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Cece Espeut

Getting in touch: VoyageMIA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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