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The Follieri Charade

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                “The Follieri Charade”, written by Michael Shnayerson for Vanity Fair magazine, depicts the rise and fall of Italian pseudo-entrepreneur Raffaello Follieri. As with all high-profile cases, there is a great deal of fiction mixed in with the facts. The goal Shnayerson had throughout the article was to separate that fiction from the actual facts of the whole affair.

                Shnayerson begins separating fact from fiction when he discusses the origins of Follieri. Born in Foggia, Southern Italy, it was believed that Follieri had moved from Italy to Manhattan at the age of 23, but in reality, he had already begun traveling back and forth from Italy to Manhattan at the young age of 19. Another piece of fiction that is revealed regards the wealth of Follieri and his family. Follieri bragged that his parents were third-generation real estate developers, but in reality, they were not. However, they were wealthy enough to allow him to afford his own apartment while he briefly attended the University of Rome (Shnayerson, 3).

                The meat of the article involves the business dealings that Follieri engaged in. One of the first was his venture of building a business in New York based on the interest in fashion held by his former girlfriend, Isabella Orsini. The business was to be called Beauty Planet, and was to involving the making and distribution of make-up products. Follieri would claim the business was a huge success, but according to Italian documents, the business never made money. Rather, it folded in 2002, following his bouncing of checks totaling well over $50,000 (Shnayerson, 3-4).

                Following the collapse of this business, Follieri came up with a new idea: using his family connections to the Vatican. The actual plan was to buy up properties from the Catholic Church, rehabilitate them if necessary, and then re-sell them. His connection to the Vatican existed in the person of Andrea Sodano, nephew of Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Initially, the idea that Follieri had seemed filled with possibility (Shnayerson, 4).

                Early on, Follieri was able to get New York lawyer Richard Ortoli to help him put into existence the Follieri Group, as well as invest almost $100,000 into the group. Soon after Ortoli invested, real-estate developer Vincent Ponte invested $300,000 into the Follieri Group. Along with this initial success, Follieri soon was living the lifestyle of a wealthy young businessman, and his crowning touch was to begin a relationship with movie star Anne Hathaway in 2004 (Shnayerson, 4).

                From all accounts of those close to the former couple, their relationship was a stormy one, mainly because of their different temperaments. Despite this, Hathaway was soon dazzled by all that Follieri seemed to be, so much so that she became a board member of one of his businesses, a foundation he founded with the goal of providing help to the poor of Latin-America.

                Not only was she a board member, but she was also enjoying the fruits of the supposed success Follieri was having. He would take her on elaborate trips that he did not actually have the money for. Rather, he relied on his inherent charm and reputation to get what he wanted. Yet, as evidenced throughout the article, Follieri was sued several times by various people for nonpayment of expenses regarding trips and dinners.

                Despite all the obvious evidence of his financial insolvency, Hathaway remained with Follieri for practically four years. Therefore it is very hard to believe that she did not eventually become aware that the man she loved was not who he claimed to be. As pointed out in the article, Follieri inflated all he said and did to make himself look more important and powerful than he actually was.

                Ultimately, the relationship between the two began collapsing around the same time that the last deal Follieri entered into collapsed. A business deal with a Canadian real-estate developer, worth $6 million, completely collapsed when he was unable to buy any church properties within the first eighteen months following the agreement to work with Follieri.  Also, attempts to pay off the debts incurred by Follieri by two other companies that had invested in his business also fell through. This left Follieri no other options, or so it seemed. Just before he was arrested, Follieri had been in Britain looking for a new investor. Again, it fell through at the last minute.

                In the end, Follieri was brought to the ultimate low in June of 2008. A mere six hours after his relationship with Hathaway permanently came to an end via a phone conversation, Follieri was arrested at the apartment of his parents. Once in court, he was charged with the following: five counts of money laundering, 6 counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His bail was set at $21 million, but with no funds to pay this, he soon became a resident of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan (Shnayerson, 2).

                The question that many are asking concerns who gave information to the F.B.I. leading to the arrest of Follieri. The possibilities range from a disgruntled ex-employee to someone in the Hathaway camp trying to protect the actress from the fallout. Regardless of who the culprit is, the outcome is still the same: Follieri no longer has the clout and wealthy lifestyle he had when he first came to America (Shnayerson, 14).

                Thus, the goal of the author in presenting the facts was completely accomplished. The article provides the reader with all the facts of the case, as well as the fiction that accompanies all celebrity articles. There is an element of sensationalism involved, but what came through were the real facts. Follieri was nothing more than a con man. He conned his fellow businessmen, and he conned Hathaway. It remains to be seen what the final chapter of this story will be, for as of now, Follieri remains in jail awaiting trial.

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    The Follieri Charade. (2017, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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