STORY
'Counterfeit Rockefeller' surrenders
 
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Christopher Roconcourt conned the rich out of thousands of dollars using various schemes.
 
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A French-born con man is anxious to deal with fraud and passport charges in the U.S., his lawyer said Monday after Christopher Rocancourt decided to waive an extradition battle and surrender to U.S. authorities.

Rocancourt is wanted in two New York state jurisdictions and in California on fraud and false passport charges.

Lawyer Mayland McKimm said Rocancourt, who appeared briefly in B.C. Supreme Court in red prison coveralls, would be returned first to New York after the Justice Department arranges for U.S. authorities to pick him up.

Earlier this month, Rocancourt pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time already served for defrauding a Vancouver businessman.

A sexual assault charge against Rocancourt in Victoria was dropped in January.

Rocancourt has been in custody since April 2001.

Last week, he received a sentence of one day -- essentially for time served -- on the Canadian fraud charge. The provincial court judge ruled that since he has been in custody for 15 months, the actual sentence fell within recommendations of the Crown and defence.

Time spent in jail awaiting trial is usually counted as double for sentencing purposes.

Rocancourt, 34, has been convicted of several crimes in France and is wanted in the three U.S. jurisdictions.

He was convicted in France of forgery, credit-card fraud and impersonation.

Authorities in New York arrested him for fraud and grand larceny. The U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York is seeking his extradition to face fraud charges in a $100,000 US loan scam.

He is wanted in California for passport fraud. He skipped out on $175,000 US bail after his 1999 arrest there.

McKimm, who estimated that Rocancourt is facing a total of about five years on all the U.S. charges, said his client elected to surrender because "he is looking forward to getting back and dealing with things."

"I'll actually miss him," McKimm told reporters outside court. "He is an excellent client, a very bright guy and extremely personable."

The lawyer, perhaps tongue in cheek, said Rocancourt has "an amazing ability to understand human nature."

The scam artist, said McKimm, is also writing an as-yet untitled book about his early life that is expected to be finished by the end of the summer and published in France.

McKimm said Rocancourt, who has a young son with his wife, former Playboy model Pia Reyes, regrets his past and wants to start over.

"He has always been of the view he would only take money from people who could afford to lose," said McKimm.

Reyes told reporters she had wanted her husband to fight extradition.

"He waived it for me," she said, adding that the months in Canada have been an ordeal but "now it's more of a relief now to get on with life."

The guilty plea in Vancouver last week was in connection with defrauding businessman Robert Baldock of more than $150,000 in money and gifts. He duped the businessman while passing himself off as a potential investor.

Rocancourt told Baldock he was a Formula One racing driver known as Michael van Hoven and his net worth was between $200 million and $250 million.

The court heard that Rocancourt was promising to invest $5 million in a Baldock venture known as Heartlink Canada, which traded at the time on the Canadian Venture Exchange.

He was dubbed the "counterfeit Rockefeller" in the U.S. media after allegedly worming his way into jet-set circles by pretending to be related to wealthy celebrities. He was photographed partying with the likes of Mickey Rourke and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Rocancourt was born in France, the son of a drunken housepainter and teenage prostitute. He was jailed in France for various cons five times between 1987 and 1992.

 Copyright  2002 Canadian Press