Lady Catarina Pietra Toumei — a woman who attempted to swindle the Bushes and the Guggenheims out of billions in cash, bonds and goods — is not the first to don a fake title to climb the social ladder. Rather, she’s just the latest to practice the great American tradition of aristocratic fabulism, a Old World-inspired combination of reinvention, deceit, and a maniacal pursuit of money that’s been practiced here for centuries.
Or, rather, she would have been that tradition’s successor — if her plan had succeeded.
Yesterday, a Manhattan federal court unsealed a complaint that accused Lady Toumei, a fake countess from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., of collaborating with a Brooklyn man and a Queens man, both of whom falsely adopted the surname “Guggenheim,” in a clearly botched seizure of Great American Family bank accounts.
At a certain point in the effort, the tripartite team of impostors set its sights on President George W. Bush and President George H. W. Bush.
“The Bush family is always invited to Manhattan, where they will be a guest of the Guggenheims, at any time,” Lady Toumei wrote to an adviser of the elder Bush leader.
The coup was to be twofold: Lady Toumei and her two sidekicks would not only attempt to ingratiate themselves into these near-royal families, our country’s closest approximations of Europe’s titled aristocracy, but they demanded bounty as well. The New York Times said that the crew “tried to solicit money and promote billions of dollars in false investment deals that involved diamonds, crude oil, vodka and bank notes.”
The Times also noted that no money or valuables were lost by the targets of the crime.
The anger over the attempted theft has already leaked onto Lady Toumei’s Facebook page, where she has “favourited” the pages of HIRH Princess Susana von Radic, Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco, and Warren Buffett.
“Anyone can post YouTube videos of Prince Harry and Bill Gates and the Knighting of someone and some charity ball in the Hamptons–doesn’t mean you were invited or involved,” someone wrote wrote on her wall. “Once again, ENJOY PRISON.”
There is no indication as to how this case will proceed, but we will be watching it very carefully.