The FBI has arrested Raffaello Follieri and accused him of fraud for claiming Vatican connections in a scheme allegedly to buy mothballed properties from US Catholic dioceses and re-develop them. (Follieri was allegedly making false claims of close ties to then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, right.)
According to the FBI, Follieri claimed the Vatican had formally appointed him to manage its financial affairs and that he had met with the pope in person in Rome.
He is accused of keeping various ceremonial robes, including the robes of senior clergymen, in his Manhattan office, and of hiring two monsignors to accompany him during his business dealings.
Once, according to the complaint, he even asked a monsignor to change out of his robes and put on the robe of a more senior clergyman to create the false impression that Follieri had close ties to the Vatican.
Follieri, Follieri, why does that sound so familiar? Oh yeah! Because I wrote this back in January 2005:
This has at least the appearance of improriety. If [they’re] smart, they’ll keep the Follieri Group at arm’s length, and other dioceses should too.
And this in 2006:
Interesting. I just got an email this morning from a high-end private investigation firm looking for more information on the Follieri Group for a client. I wonder who’s doing the asking and why.
I wonder if it was really a private eye or if it was the FBI. If it was really a private eye, maybe they were representing “supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos.” who sued Follieri after accusing him of misappropriating more than $1 million.
Wow, it’s funny to be caught up in the middle of all this, especially since I really don’t know anything about it.
Photo of Cardinal Angelo Sodano is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.