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A Fall From Grace: Follieri's Guilty Plea

POSTED: 08:00 AM ET, 09/12/2008 by The Editors

Raffaello Follieri with ex-girlfriend Anne Hathaway in New York City, October 26, 2006. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Raffaello Follieri, the Italian entrepreneur who worked his way into the inner circles of the very wealthy, pleaded guilty this week in federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy, money laundering and fraud.

In the five years he had lived in New York since moving from Italy, Follieri, 30, had parlayed what he said were his close ties to the Vatican, drawing investors into his plan to buy property from the Catholic Church. He had dated actress Anne Hathaway and associated with a close aide to Bill Clinton and Clinton friend, Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle. Burkle's Yucaipa investments put at least $55 million into the Follieri Group, the Post's David Segal reports.

Follieri appeared in court in his blue prison uniform and admitted that he had been taking money from investors to pay for his personal expenses, according to the Wall Street Journal. "I did not have investor authorization to use the money that way," he said in court. "I knew what I was doing was wrong."

Follieri has been in federal prison since his June arrest.

As Michael Shnayerson writes in Vanity Fair, "It was a shocking comedown for the charismatic entrepreneur who'd whisked his actress girlfriend around the world on chartered jets and yachts..."

By The Editors |  September 12, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
Previous: Cold War Spy Testimony Revealed | Next: The Daily Read


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Follieri was playing a very dangerous financial game for some time. He was ripping off smaller investors at first, and then ripping off Ron Burkle and Michael Cooper besides other. Some of the puff pieces that try to downplay Follieri's crimes, like the recent Vanity Fair Article, don't understand that no financial knight in shining armor was coming to his rescue, whether it was Plainfield Capital Management or some British investors.

Why he was arrested sooner than later was his addiction to a lifestyle he hardly could afford. He was going to be caught, because his business plan from the beginning was flawed and built on deceit.

Posted by: Ted W. | September 12, 2008 1:12 PM

Time and again, after the fact, when one is caught, there is remorse. I believe in this case he is only remorseful he got caught. Hathaway for one is entirely a perfect mate for him indeed. She was with him for almost 5 years and plenty of warning signals and until the end gushed and cooed over him until forced by whom we don't know to choose her career over her obsession for this crook. She is truly spineless, two-faced, unintelligent and definitely not smart. If the chief of staff he hired had this figured out in 72 hours according to Vanity Fair, then one would have to believe that either she is a genius or they are all complete idiots or worse were involved in the dirty scheme.

Posted by: Martin P. | September 12, 2008 7:58 PM

I agree, Hathaway must be so full of her self or a complete dumb dumb if she expects us to think that this all came as a surprise. She was warned plenty, her own father hired a P.I., how is that NOT A SIGN? It would be nice if this young starlets got an education and some common sense. She's an embarrassment to herself and didn't need Follieri at all to make her look stupid. The media has hyped her up as a reflection of the characters she plays when she is clearly an insecure spineless unintelligent emotional disaster. I'm with you Martin P. all the way. The Chief of Staff from the VF article was called crazy when she first confronted Ron Burkle which is amusing. Were they trying to defame her because they were part of the scheme or were they just that stupid? Either way, she is the genius of the story.

Posted by: Veronika B. | September 12, 2008 8:04 PM

I think Vanity Fair is ridiculous. Was that an effort by Anne Hathaway's hollywood associates to help try and make it look like he wasn't such a bad guy. Yucaipa is a firm that takes pension money from state workers in state funds and invests it. So your local policemen, firemen, teachers, state workers, that is their retirement money that he was having a ball with. This is a big crime and he deserves to take it up the ass when he is in prison. He is the lowest form or human life and the fact that his attorney says prison is very hard for him is a joke. Who cares? He spent money that wasn't his, that was earned by hard working people like me and he should rot in hell for it where he belongs. Anne Hathaway is a low life whose movies I will protest and so will my friends. I don't care about her pain, she looked the other way and instead of helping put an end to it sooner she just served as a literal accessory to the crime giving him more access to make him seem legitimate. I will agree that I respect that chief of staff from the story too, carmella santucci, how many people can figure out something so fast and speak up against it in this world? not many, like that woman from enron, she claims to be a whistle blower but she worked there 8 years, give me a break, it took her 8 years? McCain or Obama should look into this carmella santucci for their chief of staff and maybe we won't have to worry for 4 years.

Posted by: Molly H. | September 12, 2008 8:17 PM

I googled her name. The article spells it Carmela with 1 L and you spell it Carmella with 2 L's. How do we find out which is right? When I googled it with 2 LL's a photo came up from a society picture in a magazine called QUEST. Does anyone know if that is the same person as in the Vanity Fair article?

Posted by: Veronika B. | September 12, 2008 8:21 PM

In response to Martin P.'s comments. I agree somewhat that Hathaway should had kicked Follieri to the curb, a long time ago. Given that he was not paying people since they first started dating. However, love can blind people. Follieri was a con artist, like many con artists, he could be charming, confident that it would spill over to a person instinct about trust, he also could give out plausible after plausible excuses. I think the final straw for Hathaway was the criminal probe into the Follieri Foundation, in which she could be liable,

The people who saw through him pretty fast, were real estate specialists and financial people like Carmela Santucci. Follieri was going to be caught, because his deal was based on a lie and deceit that he had a connection to the Vatican. He could had delayed his arrest and charges much longer if he didn't lead such an extravagant lifestyle. Once he burned Ron Burkle, his fate was going to be sealed, given Yucaipa audited the joint venture books, and knew the money trail.

Posted by: Ted W. | September 12, 2008 11:13 PM

Give me a break! This is an impressionable girl who began dating this guy at the age of 21!. She's now only 25! She had the validation of the Catholic Church (or so it appeared) and of other high level people he duped (Ex President Bill Clinton) who were conferring honors on him for his charitable contributions. She was busy throughout the four years filming and promoting films all over the world. Follierie himself was only in his twenties. Hardly the "hardened" criminal persona. I've known young girls who were duped by guys who appeared to have a lot less going for them than Follieri!

Posted by: Mom | September 13, 2008 9:04 AM

Ted, did you work there or around the situation? It seems as though no one took action on Follieri until Santucci quit. Which is interesting only because there appear to have been plenty of signs to take action prior to her arrival into the picture. Which begs the question, were the Follieri partners/investors part of the scheme or were they really unaware. It would be interesting to hear more from her but I imagine we haven't and that she is the only one who got paid so that they could lock her into a confidentiality not to speak which all the more validates her savvy and accuracy about the situation. As for commentary by "mom"...Anne had warnings and there is impressionable and then there is turning the other way. Towards the end and up to the In Style Mag interview where she proclaimed her love and devotion for him when there was plenty going on that she should have alerted her to look deeper I don't disagree that she was not prudent and blinded by love. The rug wasn't pulled out from under her, she turned a blind eye and so for her to claim it was all shocking is a dramatization and exaggeration of the reality. I know of people in her public relations and actor circle of friends that really confronted her on the matter and she would not hear of it. That was her choice and it was a dumb choice plain and simple where she is 25 or 35. She has in the past conducted herself quite frankly as a bit of a know it all and perhaps this was a good and humbling situation for a young woman who has a lot to learn and especially to learn to ask questions and not assume she knows everything. I would bet money that the 37 year old Santucci at 21 or 25 would have paid attention and scratched deeper to get to the truth. There is impressionable and young but she isn't all that young and she has resources to dig deeper, she chose not too. Again, the reality is, she wasn't very smart about this situation and was blinded by love. Does that make her dumb all around, no. But I don't respect that she didn't do anything until she was made aware that the guy was going to be arrested by federal prosecutors. And then she expects people to think it was all a big surprise. I mean, it was a surprise to her but not the rest of the literate universe? She wants to speak up for politicians and share her opinion and I think if you're going to use that privilege as a public persona then you had better be smarter about everything and she really hasn't been. I don't disagree on Hathaway being a disappointment insofar as her character, I do feel she is character flawed in that the signs were way to obvious, her family pleaded with her to dump him. So did friends, other people she trusts begged, she again, turned the other cheek and took media opportunities to defend him and rebuild his reputation. That's the reality and it was a poor decision and not a smart decision by someone consumed by love for someone else. It happens, but again, she had just too many warning signs for me to chalk it up to being young, foolish and in love. I've lost all respect for this young woman and she will have to earn it back by maybe keeping her mouth shut until she reaches the emotional maturity to open it up again about opinions on anything, people, politics or otherwise. Her statement that Obama scared her at first? That doesn't make sense, it's a wierd thing to put out there that she can't take back and if she were smarter, she'd think first and speak 2nd. That is part and parcel of being a celebrity.

Posted by: Martin P. | September 13, 2008 2:18 PM

You aren't labeled criminal until you get caught. To: "MOM", how do you know he was hardly a hardened criminal when the fact of the matter is, he just wasn't caught before? His family in fact appear to be hardened criminals as they have a lengthy history of scheming in Italy. He was only in the USA 5 years and in those 5 years he has done plenty of crimes. If we look at what he's done over his time in the US alone how do you not qualify that as a hardened criminal. He just got caught and so he has the formal label now, why are you defending him and Anne, are you related or something? It's not ok, this guy took pension money from innocent people and squandered it on nonsense and innocent people have to take that as a loss in their pension funds? I mean, get a clue, her just being impressionable allowed a guy to maneuver and push on with his crimes even more. She is responsible, she made the decision to ignore the signs and that is a decision to not do anything. Age is irrelevant, if she could have sex and vote and drink legally then she can be responsible for her poor decisions. She doesn't get a pass because you think she was just 25 - that is plenty old enough to ask questions instead of force your opinion on others and not budge.

Posted by: Josephine G. | September 13, 2008 2:26 PM

I agree and don't feel at all sorry for Hathaway. There were too many warning signals she ignored. She allowed this to happen to her when she didn't investigate all the warning signs. Not doing anything at all is a decision that she made. I think her feeling as though the rug was pulled out from under her is bogus as well. She needs mental help for sure. Crazy is as crazy does and she doesn't have her head screwed on straight, that is for sure. I'm in on the protest, not going to support any film she is in, right on!

Posted by: Holly Q. | September 13, 2008 7:10 PM

I have to agree with everyone else and be contrary to the "mom" posting. Just because other people have gotten duped by men with alleged less credentials than Follieri absolutely doesn't make it acceptable. To convince yourself of such is to rationalize it to make only yourself feel better and you're out of touch with reality. I know people around the situation too, Anne may have been working alot but they spent a tremendous amount of time together, if she was filming in Vancouver for example or wherever, he would absolutely go to where she was on the weekends or they would meet somewhere half way. She called him incessantly and they would be on the phone for hours every waking minute when she wasn't shooting. To imply at all that she was off having a life while dating him and ignorant to the facts is an outright LIE. People in her circle confronted her often. It wasn't that she was confronted once, twice or even just thrice, there were plenty who challenged her and she thought she knew it all and was smarter than all of them and well, she wasn't. What I'm saying is, she made a bad decision, she looked the other way, say so, don't go on about how the rug was pulled out from under you, that's total Bu--Sh--and she knows it. Or maybe she doesn't, maybe she is just as "delusional" as Follieri and maybe they were both delusionally perfect for one another. I find her to always want to show that she has an opinion that she has to give, and that is immature. That is her feeling insecure about the fact that she really doesn't have that many opinions that she truly owns on her own. She needs to grow up and well, plenty of people have dealt with insecurity and depression or whatever else. She isn't alone in the world. But I don't disagree that as a celebrity, she ought to think first and learn to be smarter about what she puts out there. I find her totally unimpressive truthfully. I have no idea why she gets so many roles and I don't even get where people see beauty as she completely lacks inner beauty and that emanates. I'm not bashing her, but I do think she has been hyped up by the public relations powers that be i.e. Stephen Huvane hollywood, and she's just not special is what I feel is the reality. I think in Devil Wears Prada, Meryly Streep and Emily Blunt carried the movie. It wasn't like we were compelled towards Anne's character, it was when her character was placed against those of Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep that she was at all interesting. The clothes were interesting, she was not.

Posted by: ToMom | September 14, 2008 9:10 AM

I am not condoning Anne Hathaway's behavior, when there obvious red flags, this was before Burkle sued Follieri to dissolve the partnership and reclaim his money. However, she was in love with a charmer, perhaps even a sociopath. Con men/women are manipulators, and Follieri charmed his way with a couple businessmen in a hard nose business. When Hathaway had doubts, Follieri probably used a good explanation of why this happened or this bill wasn't paid. Follieri was leaving unpaid bills from the beginning of his venture and was stiffing investors like former Mafia garbage cartel member, Vincent Ponte. Hathaway was probably acting like more of a cult member with Follieri. I think she confused love as substitute for trust.

I think Follieri was going to get caught by an outside evaluator like an accountant, because his business plan was built on a lie. I don't think he was sloppy, as much as reckless. Not filing tax returns for his foundation was a deliberate move, in my opinion, so he could launder funds to his off shore bank accounts.

He was also getting into major problems both financial and PR with two properties he bought, one in Philadelphia and one in Pittsburgh. He either couldn't developed them, or didn't have the capital to flip them. He was doomed to fail. At the end, with the outstanding bills and legal judgments, the check bouncing, I am surprise he got picked up in June, when he should had been arrested after he got the PR firm to get a lien against him in January for his unpaid bill.

Posted by: Ted W. | September 15, 2008 1:26 AM

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