VICTORIA - Christopher Rocancourt, a smooth-talking jewel thief sought by the FBI for allegedly conning the rich and famous out of millions of dollars, is in custody today after being arrested by a police emergency response team in nearby Oak Bay.
Police from three different forces swept down on Mr. Rocancourt and a female companion, Maria Reyes, just before midnight Thursday in the tony municipality adjacent to Victoria.
He is in custody while police continue an investigation and is expected to appear in court on Monday.
"The couple are currently being held in Victoria on numerous charges including fraud, theft and personation [to pretend to be another person for fraudulent purposes]. Under Canadian law, the subjects' names cannot be released until formal charges have been laid," the RCMP said in a statement yesterday.
"The RCMP's investigation stems from allegations of fraud and personation in Vancouver and Whistler. This investigation has surfaced international interests in the U.S. and Europe," stated the RCMP.
Identifying him only as "the male," the RCMP said he is wanted by U.S. Marshals in Virginia, the FBI in Los Angeles and in New York and that he is "known to police in France and Switzerland."
Police sources in Victoria confirmed that Mr. Rocancourt had been arrested [the police are spelling his name Rocancort] and they identified the woman as his common law wife.
According to U.S. records, the correct spelling of his name, as it appears in his French passport, is Rocancourt -- but few things are certain about the son of a housepainter, who rose from a humble background to party with movie stars and drive Dodi Fayed's old Hummer automobile.
Mr. Rocancourt, 33, has claimed to be friends with Bill Clinton and the Sultan of Brunei. Mr. Rocancourt, who went under the alias Christopher Rockefeller, allegedly cut a swath through the wealthy residents of the Hamptons, the Long Island resort villages that serve as a summer hideaway for New York's elite.
Police allege that before he showed up in the Hamptons he had used similar cons in Los Angeles, where he lived with actor Mickey Rourke and boasted of business deals with Jean Claude Van Damme, whom he had promised $40-million to produce his next movie.
One of his trademarks was to always have a stunningly beautiful woman on his arm.
Among his girlfriends was Ms. Reyes, a former Playboy playmate and softcore porn actress, whom he married.
According to a recent article in Vanity Fair, Ms. Reyes met Mr. Rocancourt's girlfriend, a model named Rhonda Rydell, when they both rushed to an L.A. police station where he had gone to report he had been shot at. Police held Mr. Rocancourt when they ran checks and found he was using a false passport.
Ms. Rydell said she'd lived with Mr. Rocancourt for six months, without knowing he was married. She said he had told her he was French royalty, the son of a countess. At the police station she realized for the first time that he was not what he seemed.
"At that point, the whole picture started to come clear to me, that he was living a double life," she told Vanity Fair.
In Los Angeles, he drove Mr. Fayed's old Hummer, and stayed one step ahead of a growing list of creditors and people who had given him money to invest.
Police allege he masqueraded as a wealthy French investor, wheeling and dealing as he tried to put together a wide range of business deals, before walking off with whatever money he could convince people to invest.
He entered into negotiations to buy a Gulfstream jet, had a Bentley delivered to the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel, where he lived for six months, and attempted to buy a $9.5-million mansion. All those deals fell apart, however, when he was unable to come up with down payments.
In the Hamptons, he showed all the trappings of being an heir to the Rockefeller fortune, arriving at the local airport by helicopter, being served by a butler and swilling Dom Perignon champagne with his guests.
Police say he convinced people that he was rich, and got them to loan him money, with a promise that he'd triple their investment.
In an affidavit filed in U.S. courts, George Mueller, a Los Angeles District Attorney investigator, alleges that Mr. Rocancourt has scammed investors in California, Europe, Asia and Canada.
He said Mr. Rocancourt "led a high lifestyle, renting limousines, hiring bodyguards and staying in palaces."
Mr. Mueller said Mr. Rocancourt's criminal record begins a decade ago, when he was involved in robbery in Switzerland involving several hundred thousand francs worth of jewelry.
In 1997, a business associate of Mr. Rocancourt's, Don Miguel, was found dead in his Los Angeles hotel room.
"Our sources say that they were here to launder $4-million," said Mr. Mueller, who had Mr. Rocancourt in custody in 1998 after a shootout on the streets of West Hollywood.
He said Mr. Rocancourt posted bail and disappeared -- until police caught up with him last summer in the Hamptons.
Police were tipped to his activities when people became suspicious about whether he really was a Rockefeller.
When the East Hampton police picked him up, they ran a computer check and came across a list of aliases and phony identifications. At times he was known as as Fabien Ortuno, Christopher Lanencourt, James Fox, Christophe Lloyd, Christopher De Laurentis, and Christopher Reyes.
In Los Angeles, Rocancourt is wanted for questioning in connection with a nightclub shooting, smuggling diamonds from Zaire, possessing hand grenades, money laundering, bribery and perjury.
The hand grenades were found in an apartment along with an assortment of other weapons.
In the Hamptons, he is sought on a 17-count indictment that includes grand larceny, scheming to defraud and theft of services. Police say he left behind a trail of phony investment schemes and unpaid bills at fancy inns and restaurants.
He fled after posting a $45,000 bond, before police were fully aware of his record.