In November 2017, a Michigan man was arrested in New York after passing off as a Saudi royal for nearly 20 years. Identified as Colombian-born Anthony Gignac, the conman had swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars by scamming people while portraying himself as “Sultan Bin Khalid al Saud.”
Adopted by a couple in the United States, the 47-year-old was detained while he was traveling from London to New York with a passport under a different name. However, latest reports reveal he had been under investigation for quite some time – and all because he messed up one particular detail crucial to his depiction of an Arab royal.
As reported by the Miami Herald, Gignac was negotiating with Miami real estate developer Jeffrey Soffer to buy 30 percent of the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel in return for a $440million investment. During this time, he had already coaxed the billionaire into giving him $50,000 worth of gifts – including an expensive Cartier bracelet worth thousands of dollars which the fictional prince’s phony representatives had demanded claiming “the honor of the sultan had been questioned.”
The scammer, who used to stay in lavish hotel suites and drove around in luxury car with fake diplomatic number plates he had reportedly bought on eBay, had also flown to Aspen with Soffer on a private jet, according to the indictment.
“Believing that Gignac was royalty and a Saudi Arabian diplomat, with the means to purchase the hotel, the [developer] expressed interest in the deal,” read a criminal complaint.
However, it all came undone down after the developer saw him eating pork during meals. Given the fact pork is strictly prohibited in Islam, Soffer was alarmed when he saw the supposedly devout Muslim prince devouring it without a care. Alarmed by this detail, the hotelier alerted the FBI and thus began a months-long investigation into the scam that had run successfully for over two decades.
Gignac, along with his brother Daniel, reportedly started tricking people as early as in high school. They reportedly told other students their mother was the owner of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and their father was actor Dom DeLuise. None of it was true.
Following his arrest, a grand jury indicted him and he is currently being held at a detention facility in Oklahoma City. He faces multiple charges – including “conspiring to commit a crime against the United States, passing himself off as a foreign diplomat, misuse of a passport, aggravated identity theft and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images