FBI identifies "Rockefeller" as German con man

BOSTON (Reuters) - A man who passed himself off as a member of New York’s Rockefeller oil dynasty is really a German who conned his way into U.S. high society, federal investigators said on Friday.

Clark Rockefeller listens while he is arraigned in Boston, Massachusetts August 5, 2008.. REUTERS/Essdras M Suarez/Pool

The FBI said “Clark Rockefeller,” who is in custody in Boston on charges of kidnapping his daughter, is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter.

He also used the aliases Christopher Chichester, Christopher Crowe and Charles Smith, and is being sought for questioning in the suspected murder of a California couple.

“Gerhartsreiter is at the center of the longest con I have ever seen in my professional career,” Daniel Conley, District Attorney of Boston’s Suffolk County, told a joint news conference with FBI agent Warren Bamford.

Gerhartsreiter’s identity is emerging after a 12-day international manhunt that ended on August 2 with his arrest on charges of kidnapping his daughter. She had been in the custody of his ex-wife, a high-profile consultant in London.

The FBI said he was born in the former West Germany in 1961 and spent 27 years in the United States under various aliases.

Records show he applied to work as a stockbroker on Wall Street under the name of Christopher Crowe and married at least two women, including one from Wisconsin.

Former acquaintances have described him as a charming intellectual with rarefied interests, a distinguished pedigree and a privileged air. Some remember him as a schemer.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office concluded this week that he was Gerhartsreiter based on interviews with 10 people who saw his photo in reports of the kidnapping.

The FBI says a forensic examination showed his fingerprints matched those developed from a document in Gerhartsreiter’s immigration file in the early 1980s.

Los Angeles authorities want to question Gerhartsreiter in the presumed murders of John and Linda Sohus, a newlywed couple who disappeared in 1985 around the time he was a tenant in the guest house of their San Marino, California, home.

Workers digging in the yard found human remains in 1994 that were suspected of belonging to John Sohus. Linda was never found. Christopher Chichester was the focus of investigators but vanished before he was ever questioned.

His lawyer has said his client lived in the guest house but denies involvement in murder.

His wife of 12 years, Sandra Boss, a partner with global management consultants McKinsey & Co in London, accused him of lying about being a Rockefeller in divorce proceedings in December. She won custody of their daughter after he refused to provide proof of his identity, Boston authorities say.

Editing by Xavier Briand