A PHONY Italian nobleman tricked an Almeria businessman with a manoeuvre resembling a sequence from a Marx Brothers film.
The Supreme Court rejected the Italian’s appeal against a three-year prison sentence for swindling €500,000. He was also ordered to return the defrauded cash.
The Italian, who called himself Angelo, told his victim that he possessed a large fortune but needed to change €500 banknotes for smaller denominations, offering a 10 per cent commission. The businessman accepted and received €11,000 in €500 notes in return for €10,000 in smaller notes. He later agreed to exchange €500,000 for €1,500,000.
Angelo, an accomplice, and the businessman met in an Almeria City hotel room to carry out the transaction. On his arrival Angelo and Mario showed him a large pedestal table with two drawers, one full of €500 notes and the other empty.
The businessman, who arrived with a machine to count and detect counterfeit notes, duly counted each wad of cash taken from the full drawer. This then went into the second drawer without his realising that he was repeatedly counting the same wad of €500 notes.
The accomplice, hidden inside the hollow pedestal of the previously-installed table, switched the checked packet back to the first drawer for Angelo to hand over. Meanwhile, wads of photocopied notes mounted up in the other.
The counting complete, Angelo packed the fakes into a briefcase which he handed to the duped businessman in exchange for another briefcase containing €500,000.
Angelo was detained at the French border two days later, carrying €232,750 although the whereabouts of the accomplice are unknown.
The Italian ‘nobleman’ challenged the sentence, claiming that the scam was so absurd that his victim could have avoided it with a minimum of self-protection.