Did Ron Burkle Set Up Rafaello Follieri?There was an interesting line in Wednesday's front-page Wall Street Journal story on alleged Italian con man Rafaello Follieri. Follieri, you'll recall, has been accused, among other things, of squandering $50 million from a partnership involving supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle and former President Bill Clinton, in part on lavish personal luxuries. The Burkle-Clinton swindle is at the heart of the criminal case that got Follieri arrested this week. And yet, the Journal said, Follieri and the partnership "recently settled the [parallel] civil case on undisclosed terms, and Mr. Follieri has begun spending time again with Mr. Burkle, say people familiar with the matter." Wow, Follieri blew millions of dollars of money entrusted to Burkle by his best buddy Clinton, and yet suddenly all was forgiven? I don't suppose Burkle was doing any surreptitious recording during his buddy-buddy time with Rafaello, like he did with Post gossip Jared Paul Stern?

The feds are the ones who charged Follieri, and it was also the feds, working with Burkle, who investigated Stern for allegedly attempting to sell Burkle better treatment in his tabloid. Burkle recorded a meeting with Stern to build the extortion case, but nothing came of it: Though reports of the meeting ended up all over the media, the feds never charged Stern with a crime.

The fact that there's now a federal charge against Follieri would seem to indicate Burkle was not as forgiving as he might have seemed; it's hard to imagine the feds moving forward with a case without the cooperation of the managing partner of the key victim. That makes Burkle's face time with Follieri all the more suspicious.

If Burkle is setting up Follieri, the Italian businessman's attorneys are likely to highlight everything potential embarrassing about Burkle at trial, e.g. his penchant for hanging out with teenaged girls, and anything potentially embarrassing about his relationship with Bill Clinton, whose wife is a sensitive point in her political career. But Burkle seems to like him some revenge, and airing old laundry is, perhaps, a small price to pay, in his eyes.

[WSJ]