A con man who convinced a former Tiburon realtor that he was the son of President of the Republic of Congo and swindled him of $1.6 million was sentenced to nearly three and one-half years in prison Wednesday in federal court.
Blessed Marvelous Herve, 42, bilked the realtor, identified in media accounts as Bruce Engel, and his girlfriend, Karen Wold, of $1.6 million over the courts of six years from 2006 to 2012.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered Herve to serve 40 months in prison after scamming the realtor and retired school teacher of all their assets.
In 2006, Herve contacted Engel posing as a prospective client for a $6 million luxury home in Tiburon that Engel had advertised, according to court documents that identify Engel and Wold only as BE and KW. Herve said he was the son of Denis Nguesso, president of Congo, who wanted to pay cash for several homes. But Herve claimed that his wealthy father would travel to the U.S. only if the Herve had bulletproof limousines arranged to transport him here. He asked Engel to advance the funds for the limo rentals and Engel agreed. The visits were cancelled but Herve obtained cash for the limousine service each time, roughly $30,000.
In the second phase of the scam, Herve said $43 million had been seized by the U.S. when it was transferred from Switzerland to San Francisco. He received $200,000 in alleged costs associated with a non-existent court case that was part of an effort to free the seized funds. Herve also sought living expenses of $2,800 a month for his daughter.
When Engel sought proof of the secret federal court proceeding, Herve purportedly showed him documents captioned U.S. v. Blessed Marvelous Herve, which was in fact a 1996 passport fraud case against Herve.
When Engel ran out of money to pay Herve he turned to his girlfriend, Wold, a retired teacher who eventually was fleeced of $950,000, all related to getting funds released from U.S. authorities to buy homes from Engel, according to court documents.
In the end the couple were defrauded of $1.6 million over the course of six years.
Prosecutors say the fraud cost the victims their entire retirement savings. Both had to go back to work, including Wold who holds a $12 per hour job at a clothing store, according to the sentencing report.
This was Herve’s second conviction. In 1996 he was sentenced to two years probation for filing false statements with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles.
Case: U.S. v. Herve, No. 13-cr-293CRB