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US jails French ‘counterfeit Rockefeller’

LOS ANGELES, March 30 (AFP) – A Frenchman known as the “counterfeit Rockefeller” who swindled jet-setters out of more than USD 1 million has been jailed for five years in the United States, officials said Tuesday.

International conman Christophe Rocancourt, 36, who is already jailed for two other convictions in New York, was ordered Monday by a Los Angeles judge to spend five years behind bars for conspiring to use a false passport.

The playboy trickster’s latest sentence will run concurrently with the federal prison terms from New York that he is currently serving and he will see out his time in Lewisburg in the eastern state of Pennsylvania.

When he is released from jail in October 2005 after being given credit for time already served, Rocancourt is expected to be deported back to France, the judge said.

“Good Riddance. The French can have him back,” said Deputy District Attorney Hector Guzman of his case against Rocancourt filed in 1996.

“It’s kind of nice to come back here and put a finality to it,” the prosecutor said. “Hopefully Mr. Rocancourt learns some sort of lesson out of it.”

Rocancourt – who hails from Honfleur, France – allegedly weaselled his way into wealthy US circles by passing himself off as a French-accented Rockefeller, one of 12 aliases.

He had all the trappings of wealth and privilege including smart suits and a Ferrari, and promised wealthy investors incredible returns on cash investments in a bogus get-richer-quick scheme.

While posing alternately as a member of the billionaire US Rockefeller family, a racing car driver and a wealthy entertainment executive, he conned more than USD 1.2 million out of the rich and famous from California to New York to Canada, authorities said.

He then simply failed to repay the investors or follow through on the deal. Authorities claim that he used other people’s money to live a life of luxury, living in five star hotels, travelling in limousines and on first-class flights.

Among his victims, authorities said, were a movie stand-in, an owner of posh clothing store chain and a French pop singer. Police arrested him in the Hamptons in 2000 but he skipped bail.

Rocancourt was arrested again in Canada in 2001 and, while jailed, wrote a book about his extraordinary life of deceit.

Rocancourt agreed to be extradited back to the United States in conjunction with what authorities called a “global settlement” in January 2003.

The suave conman’s lawyer Victor Sherman said his client “got a great deal.”

“I took care of all of his cases for basically one sentence. “This is it. We’re finished,” Sherman said adding that Rocancourt was planning to go into the film business when he is released from prison.

Last August, he pleaded guilty to grand larceny in Suffolk County New York and received a sentence of up to four years in prison. Two months later, he pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Long Island and was sentenced to three years and 10 months.

In Los Angeles, Rocancourt was charged with bribing US government employees to issue him an American passport in March 1998.

He was charged along with two federal employees and a Gabonese national, but again fled while free on bail.

Both of the US government employees pleaded guilty and were placed on probation, while the third defendant, Lea Dabony, 31, of Gabon, remains a fugitive.

Along with the prison term, Rocancourt must also pay a USD 1,000 restitution fine in the Los Angeles case. He received credit for the time he had already spent in custody in Canada while awaiting extradition.


                                         Subject: French news