A Manhattan judge Oct. 23 sentenced Raffaello Follieri to 4 1/2 years in prison for cheating investors by claiming he had Vatican connections that allowed him to buy Catholic Church property at a discount.
Follieri pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, and had agreed to forfeit $2.4 million.
The U.S. government said Follieri claimed he was the chief financial officer of the Vatican — and showed at least one business contact a phony letter in Italian, purportedly written to him in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.
Prosecutors say he used several million dollars from investors to travel the world on private planes, enjoying expensive hotels and dinners and renting yachts. He spent $37,000 a month for a Manhattan apartment.
The real estate practices that led to a guilty plea and the sentencing was first covered by Joe Feuerherd, recently named NCR Publisher.