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Christophe Thierry Rocancourt
16 July 1967
|Other names||Christopher Rocancourt|
Christopher De Laurentiis
Christopher de la Renta
Prince Galitzine Christo
Michael van Hoven
|Occupation||Impostor, Confidence man|
Pia Reyes (1996–?)
|Parent(s)||Daniel Rocancourt & Annick Villers|
Christophe Thierry Daniel Rocancourt, sometimes also called Christopher Rocancourt (born 16 July 1967), is a French impostor and confidence man who scammed affluent people by masquerading in turn as a French nobleman, the heir to the Rockefeller family or family member of a celebrity.
Rocancourt told Dateline NBC in a 2006 broadcast that his mother sometimes worked as a prostitute and his father was an alcoholic who took Christophe to an orphanage when the boy was 5. His first big con was made in Paris, where he faked the deed to a property that he did not own, which he then "sold" for US$1.4 million.
Making his way to the United States, Rocancourt used at least a dozen aliases, and got the rich and powerful to invest in his schemes, he told Dateline, by tapping into their greed. He convinced them that he, too, was rich by paying for their lavish dinners in cash. He once estimated to Dateline that his various schemes/ventures netted him at least US$40 million, but this cannot be confirmed.
In Los Angeles, he pretended to be a movie producer, ex-boxing champion or venture capitalist, also claiming to be the illegitimate son of Sophia Loren, the nephew of Oscar de la Renta and Dino De Laurentiis, and he associated himself with various celebrities: he lived for a time with Mickey Rourke, and apparently convinced actor Jean-Claude Van Damme to produce his next movie. He was also in talks with Jermaine Jackson to develop a line of fragrances inspired by Michael Jackson songs.
Rocancourt, using the name Christopher De Laurentiis, married Gry Park in 1992 with whom he had a child. He married Playboy model Pia Reyes in May 1996, and they had a son, Zeus. Beside being married to Pia Reyes, according to the press, he lived with Playboy model Rhonda Rydell for six months. She did not know Rocancourt was married, and said he had told her he was French nobility, the son of a countess.
In 1997 police raided Rocancourt's hotel suite, and in 1998 he was arrested for an involvement in a shootout before he jumped bail. In 1999 he was freed of charges of forging passports after he had bribed State Department employees to get a passport. He was arrested in 2000 in the Hamptons for an unpaid hotel bill, then jumped bail and relocated to Canada where he assumed the identity of Grand Prix driver Michael van Hoven. On April 27, 2001 he and Reyes were detained in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and Rocancourt was later charged with defrauding an elderly couple; Reyes was released after convincing authorities that she had no part in the scam, much less any idea of her husband's criminal activities. Rocancourt served a year in prison before being extradited to New York and pleading guilty to charges of theft, grand larceny, smuggling, bribery, perjury and fraud against 19 victims. In September 2003, the plea resulted in a fine of $9 million, an order to pay $1.2 million in restitution and a term of three years and ten months in federal prison.
While being held in Canada, Rocancourt wrote an autobiography in which he ridiculed his victims. In Switzerland, police have connected him with a jewel theft, and barred him from the country for 14 years; this expired 2016.
Rocancourt returned to Paris in October 2005 after completing his prison sentence. He lived with former Miss France Sonia Rolland, and they had a daughter together, named Tess. They announced their split in early 2008.
In July 2009, French filmmaker Catherine Breillat accused Rocancourt of scamming her out of €700,000. Breillat, who was diagnosed with a cerebrovascular disease in 2004, accused him of taking advantage of her due to her mental incapacity. Due to this event, the film Bad Love, with Rocancourt and model Naomi Campbell, was cancelled. Breillat told a French journalist that her first meeting with Rocancourt was the worst day of her life, even worse than the day when she was diagnosed with her cerebrovascular disease. In 2012, Rocancourt was convicted of "abus de faiblesse" ("abuse of weakness") for taking Breillat's money, and sentenced to prison.
In popular culture
Catherine Breillat's 2014 film "Abuse of Weakness" presents a lightly fictionalized depiction of her relationship with Rocancourt.
- Mike Taibbi (March 12, 2006). "Catch Him If You Can". Dateline. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Bryan Burrough (October 3, 2007). "The Counterfeit Rockefeller". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Rod Mickleburgh (March 21, 2009). "Christopher Rocancourt, one of life's truly great pretenders, has no regrets - honestly". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Jarrett Murphy (October 21, 2003). "Fake Rockefeller Gets Jail Time". CBS News. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- "Sonia Rolland et Christophe Rocancourt : leur histoire d'amour est terminée !". Purepeople. April 10, 2008. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- Groves, Don (9 August 2010). "Breillat's new twist on Sleeping Beauty". SBS. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Delphine de Mallevoüe (February 18, 2012). "Christophe Rocancourt sort de prison et prépare un livre". Retrieved March 29, 2017.
- "MUGSHOTS: CHRIS ROCANCOURT – A FRENCH CON". FilmRise. 1 December 2013. Archived from the original on 2017-10-20. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- Titze, Anne-Katrin (14 August 2014). "'Abuse of Weakness' Director Catherine Breillat on How to Blackmail Isabelle Huppert Into Starring in Your Film". IndieWire. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 31 January 2019.