Why Follieri's Scam Was Different

Joshua David Stein and Page Six Magazine got lucky this week—con man and Anne Hathaway-dater Raffaello Follieri (at left, with Bill Clinton) was arrested just as Stein's long profile of him went to press! It's an entertaining read, and while it answers lots of questions about how Follieri's big con worked, it raises a bunch too. Like how the hell did such a ridiculous scam work for so long? And how much of his own insane hype did Follieri believe? He had to be convinced of his rightness (and righteousness) to keep the lifestyle going after getting exposed so many times by the billionaires he conned. So despite lawsuits and gradual exposure as a fraud, he soldiered on.


Follieri's story is different, really, because while the other rich actress- and model-dating horndogs find themselves in hot water for whoring and partying, Follieri's facing jail time for pretending to be the most pious motherfucker in New York. He boasted of imaginary connections to the Catholic Church to scam money from investors that he needed to keep up his lifestyle of being a the perfect wealthy, charitable Catholic.

As the Church faced fallout from the child abuse scandal, Follieri stepped up to help them unload their real estate properties and convert them into morally agreeable businesses. He hired the nephew of of the Vatican's secretary of state and went around claiming to be a "representative for the Vatican." But Follieri's only real connection to the church was a guy who could arrange to get him a tour of the garden every now and then. But the scam worked! Thanks, as always, to how easily duped the self-righteous rich can be.

While his love life with Anne was flourishing, in 2005 Raffaello found his most high-profile partners for the Follieri Group yet. That year, he became friends with Doug Band, a young aide to former President Bill Clinton. Doug, who was often seen cavorting with Raffaello in Manhattan restaurants like Nobu and Cipriani, served as a matchmaker. He introduced Raffaello to a Canadian real estate developer named Michael Cooper, a meeting for which Raffaello paid $400,000. More importantly, Doug introduced him to Bill Clinton and his close personal friends, including supermarket magnate and billionaire Ron Burkle. In April 2005, Ron formed a joint venture with Raffaello, called Follieri/Yucaipa Investments, to develop unused Catholic properties. Ron pledged $105 million to help his new business partner in this pursuit. One year later, Raffaello made his own significant donation, pledging $1 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, a charity founded by the former president. This move gave Raffaello a chance to spend more time with one of the most influential men in the world, and he seized the opportunity to vacation with Clinton in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. In a picture taken at that time, Raffaello has his arm draped around Bill Clinton on one side and Anne Hathaway on the other. Everyone is smiling for the camera. ­Raffaello seemed to have it all: fame, success, money, friendship, the perfect girl.

Doug Band! You may remember him as Bill Clinton's guy Friday, who has a terrible habit of introducing the former president to complete scumbags and then also failing to keep Bill's own behavior in check.

By 2007, Burkle was suing Follieri for misappropriation of that million dollars. Because Follieri used it to pay for his penthouse and his lavish lifestyle, which he needed to keep up appearances as a successful friend of the Vatican. It really all would've been easier if he'd actually just made connections at the Vatican and managed real estate for them for real, right? But the one time they tried to do this, with a church in Philadelphia, it burned down and they sold it for no profit.

But once the Burkle suit was settled and the jet company sued him and the NYPD arrested him for bouncing a check and the PR company sued him and his foundation's only employee quit AND it became apparent that Andrew Cuomo was going to indict him, you would think actress Anne Hathaway would've given up on him? Or that he would've given up on his scam? Not so much.

So yes, it was an audacious and impressive lie that he lived, but it looks for all the world like he actually bought into it himself.