ROBERT MATAS AND CAROLINE ALPHONSO
Wednesday, May 2, 2001
VANCOUVER -- Local businessman Robert Baldock expects to be the star witness in a sensational case, involving a man accused of being an international con artist, which has attracted worldwide notoriety.
Christophe Rocancourt had been on the run from police forces in several countries when we was picked up last week in Victoria in connection with allegations of fraud in British Columbia.
A police affidavit says Mr. Baldock was the victim of the fraud.
However, Mr. Baldock said yesterday that he didn't want to talk about allegations that he was swindled out of more than $100,000 until the police investigation ends.
Mr. Rocancourt, sought all over the world on a variety of charges, most involving allegations that he swindled unsuspecting jet-setters out of large amounts of money, is facing several charges in British Columbia.
Documents filed by police to obtain a search warrant in the the fraud allegations involving Mr. Baldock portray a man who was promised much, who advanced money and paid for lavish hotel accommodations in the hope of securing a large investment, and who never saw his money again.
The alleged events are similar to schemes Mr. Rocancourt is said to have carried out in numerous locations, most recently in New York under the alias Christopher Rockefeller.
U.S. police records show that RCMP officers were advised to use "extreme caution" with Mr. Rocancourt, RCMP Corporal Cara McMillan said in an affidavit used in obtaining the search warrant.
Mr. Rocancourt, 33, charged in British Columbia with sexual assault, threatening, assault causing bodily harm, assault and fraud, is seeking bail. They also arrested Maria Reyes, 36, a former Playboy Playmate with whom he has a son. She was released on bail and is to appear in Provincial Court in Vancouver on May 14 on one count of fraud. The judge reserved decision on Mr. Rocancourt's bail until tomorrow.
Mr. Rocancourt is reported to have passed himself off under aliases as an extremely weathy bon vivant, and to have persuaded entrepreneurs and others to give him huge sums of money for investment.
At the time of his arrest, police in Los Angeles, New York, France and Switzerland were reported to be looking for him. When police took him into custody, he was wearing a $28,000 Rolex watch and had a receipt for two watches totalling $148,450.80.
Cpl. McMillan's affidavit says the RCMP joined the hunt for Mr. Rocancourt after Mr. Baldock complained to police on April 17 that he had been swindled by a man named Mikael Van Hoven, a name Mr. Rocancourt is accused of using as an alias.
Mr. Baldock, president of Heartlink Canada Inc., said he paid Mr. Van Hoven up to $170,000 earlier this year for expenses because he had promised to invest $5-million in the company.
According to the document, Mr. Baldock said he was introduced to the man in February by an acquaintance. After agreeing to invest in Heartlink, Mr. Van Hoven signed contracts to have money transferred from his account in New York, Cpl. McMillan stated.
The affidavit says Mr. Baldock gave the man a Rolex watch and a computer, and paid for a trip to Switzerland on the assumption that he could make the investment.
Mr. Baldock rented a hotel suite in downtown Vancouver for the man's lawyer, who was to arrive from New York. However, the affidavit said, Mr. Baldock then learned that the man calling himself Mr. Van Hoven had moved into the hotel suite and told staff he was a New York banker.
When the funds were not transferred from New York, the man suggested that Mr. Baldock fly to Geneva to meet his father, who he said was keeper of the family assets, Cpl. McMillan stated. Mr. Baldock spent a week in Geneva, but Mr. Van Hoven's father never appeared.
Nevertheless, the affidavit says, Mr. Baldock and his wife Norma subsequently went to Whistler with the man and his family. Ms. Baldock used her credit card to rent a room and a Lincoln Navigator for the family, it said.
While in Whistler, Mr. Van Hoven wrote a $100,000 cheque for a deposit on a $8-million chalet under construction in the Whistler area, the affidavit said.
The document said that in another attempt to arrange the investment, Mr. Baldock paid for bankers from Zurich to come to Canada to assist Mr. Van Hoven.
But in early April, it said, the Baldocks learned that their credit card had been used for irregular charges. After they left Whistler, the man calling himself Mr. Van Hoven allegedly passed himself off to hotel staff as Mr. Baldock, and charged considerable expenses. Shortly afterward, they allege, they found out that the man had not paid the $100,000 deposit on the Whistler chalet. It was at this point that Mr. Baldock went to police.
The affidavit says police linked Mr. Van Hoven to Mr. Rocancourt after obtaining an earlier search warrant to enter the Van Hovens' home. Police found a chequebook in the name of Mr. Rocancourt.