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May 26, 2001

Former playmate believes husband innocent of fraud
Accused con artist not what he seems to be, sister says

Mark Hume
National Post
Jeff Vinnick, National Post

Pia Reyes, wife of Christopher Rocancourt, waits outside court in Vancouver.

VANCOUVER - Pia Reyes, a former Playboy playmate facing fraud charges with her common-law husband, Christopher Rocancourt, has complete faith in him despite police allegations he is a master of deception, a family member says.

Despite a daunting array of charges facing Mr. Rocancourt in Vancouver, Victoria, Los Angeles and New York, she believes in his innocence and that everything will be OK, Mercedes Reyes, Pia's sister, said in an interview.

"She says there's nothing to worry about. I think she's deluded herself into thinking he's fine," she said from her home in New York.

"She says when she's completed [with the courts] she will leave Vancouver and come back to the U.S. Then she hopes Christopher will be freed and he'll follow her right after."

But Mercedes Reyes, who has been reading about Mr. Rocancourt's secret life in the New York Times and Vanity Fair, said she doesn't share her sister's blind faith.

"He's not good," she said. "I don't think my sister should have anything to do with him. She should just get out of the situation."

Mr. Rocancourt, who is in custody, and his wife, who is out on bail, appeared in provincial court yesterday on charges of fraud over $5,000. The matter was put over until June 15, when a trial date will be set.

Mercedes Reyes described Mr. Rocancourt as charming and bright, but said she's now convinced he was never what he seemed to be. "He portrayed himself as a wealthy investor who did not have to work," she said of her meetings with him. "He was supposed to be someone who links investors to the producers of movies."

Police in Los Angeles and in the Hamptons, a retreat for the wealthy just outside New York City, allege Mr. Rocancourt was a con man who used different guises to get money.

In L.A., police say he posed as a European boxing champion, hung out with movie stars, drove Dodi Fayed's old Hummer, and told people he was Christopher De Laurentiis, nephew of the filmmaker Dino De Laurentiis.

In the Hamptons, he passed himself off as Christopher Rockefeller, explaining away his accent by saying he was the French-raised heir to the Rockefeller fortune.

People became suspicious because he drove a Mazda and at a dinner party praised a cheap California wine as a fine Bordeaux.

Police in L.A. and New York, where he is wanted for skipping out on a $45,000 bail bond, say he typically masqueraded as a wealthy venture capitalist trying to put business deals together. Once he got the money from investors, he'd leave town.

In Vancouver, police allege he defrauded a businessman of nearly $200,000 by pretending he was a race car driver who had $5-million to invest.

Mr. Rocancourt also faces charges of sexual assault and assault causing bodily harm, stemming from an incident police say involved a young woman in Victoria. That matter is expected to go to trial in July.

Sue Wishart, Mr. Rocancourt's lawyer, said the fraud trial likely won't take place until December.

"He's doing very well. He's in good spirits. He's looking forward to having his day in court," she said.

Ms. Wishart said Mr. Rocancourt is aware of the intense media interest in his case but isn't concerned about it. "He expected it. He hopes he will be portrayed favourably."

Pia Reyes, who chatted with friends outside the courtroom yesterday, declined comment, other than to say she was fine.

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