‘Gigolo’ Must Pay Victims of Romance Con : Justice: A judge approves a no-jail plea bargain that frees the defendant to earn money for restitution. The defense attorney calls it a ‘sweetheart deal.’


Self-described gigolo Joseph (Mac) Duffy, who allegedly has bilked women all over the world of $160,000, was released from jail Wednesday under a strict, three-year probation agreement.

Duffy, who pleaded guilty to four counts of grand theft for con schemes in Orange County, was given a two-year state prison sentence by Superior Court Judge Richard L. Weatherspoon. The sentence was suspended under the terms of the probation agreement, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Ferguson. Weatherspoon also sentenced Duffy to 60 days in County Jail but credited him with time served and granted his release.

Ferguson said that under the probation terms, Duffy will be obligated to pay restitution totaling more than $10,000 to two of his four Orange County victims, with a hearing to be scheduled later to determine repayment for the other two women, including his wife.


If Duffy does not seek “lawful employment,” fails to make restitution, attempts to bilk anyone else or commits another crime, “he will be on a fast track to the joint” to serve his two-year prison term, Ferguson said.

“I felt my obligation in this case was to return to the victims as much money as we could get them reimbursed for, and to do what we could to discourage Mr. Duffy from committing this type of crime again,” Ferguson said. “He can get out, commence working and do what he can to start raising money in a lawful way to start repaying this money.”

Duffy’s attorney, Jerry Steering, said his client was “thrilled” by the plea bargain agreement, which calls for all of the charges to be dropped and for Duffy’s criminal record to be wiped clean if he successfully completes his probation.

“That was the real gem--it’s a sweetheart deal,” Steering said. “If he stays in jail, the (victims) aren’t going to get paid back anyway.”

Duffy “genuinely wants to make a respectable human being out of himself,” Steering added. “Just because someone has been a certain way doesn’t mean that he has to stay that way.”

Duffy’s jet-set lifestyle--which has been chronicled on television’s “A Current Affair” and in newspaper articles--included a Porsche, a pair of Rolls-Royces, designer clothes and Rolex watches, all purchased with at least $160,000 allegedly swindled from nine women in Orange County and cities around the world.


Although he was employed as a golf pro, the 29-year-old Scotsman convinced his victims that he was an international broker who wanted their money for European stock ventures. After he romanced the money from the women, Duffy used it to finance his jet-set lifestyle. In one instance, he used a $10,000 check intended for an investment toward the purchase of a 1969 Rolls-Royce.

Another victim, Sylvianne Lestringant, 42, was conned out of $17,500. But she was so taken by Duffy’s good looks and style that she eloped to Las Vegas with him and later put up $4,000 in cash and used her Laguna Niguel house to post a $40,000 bail bond for Duffy. Lestringant later revoked the bail and said she would seek an annulment of their marriage. They were wed in January.

On Wednesday, Lestringant said the probation agreement was “a good idea” and said she harbored no bitterness towards Duffy.

“He’s free now, and it’s up to him to keep his promises (to make restitution),” she said. “He went to jail; he’s had a taste of it, and now he can start to make a difference in his life.”

Steering said the amount of Duffy’s restitution to Lestringant will be determined at a restitution hearing.

The plea bargain also calls for Duffy to pay $8,275 to Sharon Butler, a Laguna Hills stockbroker who was bilked out of a $15,000 Rolex and $24,000 in cash, and $2,643 to Diane Lampe, who loaned Duffy $1,500 and bought him alligator shoes worth $1,537.


The fourth victim, Sharon Ambrose, has already been paid back by Duffy, but “she may want to claim interest . . . at a restitution hearing,” Steering said. Ambrose, Lampe and Butler could not be reached for comment.