It's the age-old Nigerian folktale. A long, long time ago, a prince lost his way. Riches and wealth seized by an evil government, the prince wandered the Bay Area, searching for an ordinary citizen with a heart of gold to break the curse. All it would take, the prince told the goodhearted citizen, was a little cash infusion that would break the government's evil spell, releasing millions of dollars for the prince to share with his savior.
Blessed Marvelous Herve updated the story a bit, but the essential facts remain the same. Herve scammed a Marin County real estate agent and his girlfriend out of a combined $1.6 million by pretending to be the son of Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (pictured). Had anyone in the story had access to Google, they might have found that Herve and his purported father are the same age—41.
The scheme started in 2005, when Herve approached the real estate agent about buying multiple multi-million dollar homes for the Congolese president. There was just one problem, he told the agent; the government had seized more than $43 million in assets. Herve needed money for items like bulletproof limousines ($30,000) to make sure the deal went forward. Could the agent help?
Herve didn't come empty-handed. To bolster credibility, Herve offered the agent two promissory notes totaling $1.5 million, a "complimentary letter" from a US senator, awards of recognition from San Francisco, and his daughter's birth certificate, among other documents.
The agent ended up advancing Herve $635,000 to aid with fake living expenses, fake federal trials, a fake room at the Four Seasons, and eventually a fake federal incarceration. When the agent went broke, Herve turned to the agent's girlfriend, who gave him more than $970,000 over 200 wire transfers to fund fake prison medical care, fake prison transportation, and fake IRS debts. At this point, the agent's girlfriend also became broke, and Herve told the unhappy couple that he was being transferred to a prison in Puerto Rico, and would eventually be deported to Congo, where his father, ostensibly tired of waiting for the real estate deals, would kill him.
Herve was arrested for wire fraud on Wednesday in San Francisco and faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.