SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas (WCMH) — A man who multiple women across several states have accused of romancing them before stealing from them has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Texas.
One of Matthew Person’s ex-girlfriends is from central Ohio, and testified in person Monday in the Hopkins County courtroom.
The woman, who asked that her name not be shared, dated Person in 2021, shortly after he moved to Columbus. Throughout their months-long relationship, he was scheduled for hearings and skipping bail on stemming from a car theft in the small jurisdiction east of Dallas.
“I’m tired, but relieved,” said the ex-girlfriend, speaking to NBC4 as she waited for her flight home after the sentencing. She was one of three woman who told the Texas judge about how Person wooed them and made off with money, valuables and in some cases, their identities.
“There was a lot of angst going into it because the three of us have not laid eyes on him, you know, in a really long time,” said the woman from Upper Arlington, who said she had become close with Person’s other exes as they worked with prosecutors to secure the sentence. “Our joke was is we’re all members of the sorority that we never wanted to be become a part of.”
The last time she saw the man she knew as Matthew Paulson, it was August of 2021. The couple had planned a vacation together. He left without her, taking with him her jewelry, her laptop, and a suitcase full of her belongings.
Person was arrested days later in Atlanta, after a Jaguar salesman caught him trying to steal a car from the dealership. After serving time for those charges, Person was extradited to Hopkins County, where he was wanted on charges stemming from a car theft.
“Matt had built this gigantic, elaborate house of cards that I still — to this day, I don’t understand how he kept it afloat,“ said Person’s defense attorney, Martin Braddy. “I’ve been doing this for 26 years as a prosecutor, as a defense attorney. And I’ve never seen one like this. I suspect I’ll never see one again.“
Braddy explained that Person had rented a vehicle and didn’t return it by its due date. Person was pulled over in Hopkins County in 2020 after the rental agency reported the vehicle as stolen.
Person ultimately pled guilty to bail jumping and failure to appear, a felony carrying up to 20 years in prison because of his criminal record.
Braddy said prosecutors compiled mountains of evidence detailing decades of a con-man lifestyle, including previous convictions, outstanding charges and ongoing investigations in multiple states, and the stories of the women Person once dated.
“(They) just built an extremely strong case that was virtually impossible to defend,” Braddy said. “He’s going to suffer the consequence. And so, you know, it’s hardworking prosecutors and a good court system. And obviously, the hard work of these women that really, really, really pushed it.”
“We just felt like we owe it to every woman out there to push this through and really do everything we could to see justice,” the Ohio woman said. “So that’s why we did it. And it was worth every minute.”
The three women held hands in the front row of the courtroom when the judge handed down the maximum sentence, which also included a $10,000 fine.
“We were not supposed to have any outbursts, so we didn’t say anything,” the Ohio woman said. “We squeezed each other’s hands so tight. And we were just all in tears, instantly.”
“Out here in small-town in east Texas, we would say, ‘The chickens come home to roost,'” Braddy said. “And they did. And he accepted that.”
Since NBC4’s first story about Person, the Ohio victim traveled to Atlanta and retrieved her suitcase and laptop, which police seized from Person during his arrest. She said she also retrieved his work laptop, which she returned to his former employer in Columbus.
“They said, ‘We never thought we’d see that computer again,'” she said.
She said Person’s ex-wife and the mother of his children were invited to testify Monday as well, but declined. Instead, she sent her ex-husband’s former girlfriends a gift basket with wine and snacks.
“I need a good night’s sleep — and maybe one of those bottles of wine,” the Ohio woman said, before boarding her flight.