Anne Hathaway's ex admits to fraud

Wed Sep 10, 2008 3:32pm EDT
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By Grant McCool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Italian businessman who dated Hollywood star Anne Hathaway and did a deal with supermarket mogul Ron Burkle, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of fraud in which he lied about links to the Vatican.

Millionaire Raffaello Follieri, 30, admitted in U.S. District Court to a scheme in which he fraudulently obtained more than $2 million in a web of shell companies with phony consultancies.

Dressed in dark blue prison-issue pants and shirt over a white undershirt, Follieri answered "guilty" to each of 14 counts charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

Follieri was arrested on June 24 and accused of operating the scheme between 2005 and 2007 in which he led investors to believe that he had close connections with the Vatican that enabled him to buy the Catholic Church's unwanted U.S. real estate properties at a discount.

Since his arrival in the United States in 2003, the native of Foggia, Italy, who was described by prosecutors as a con-man, forged a real-estate venture with California supermarket billionaire Burkle.

He dated Hathaway, star of "The Princess Diaries" and "The Devil Wears Prada" for four years until they split just before he was arrested in June.

Follieri's attorney Flora Edwards told reporters outside the courthouse that one explanation for the fraud was that he "got side-tracked ... perhaps to adopt a lifestyle that was not his, that he was not able to maintain."


<p>Actress Anne Hathaway and Raffaello Follieri during New York Fashion Week, February 3, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>