A man once dubbed by The New Yorker as ‘The Worst Boyfriend on the Upper East Side’ has now been indicted in a $1.8 million scam, prosecutors say, after romancing women and then bilking them of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of nearly a decade.
“Nelson Counne’s sole source of income for the past eight years was money he swindled,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
“He allegedly fed lie after lie to women he falsely claimed to have a romantic interest in, enticing them with investment opportunities that never existed while using their funds to repay past victims, lure in new ones, and fund his lifestyle,” Bragg explained Monday, announcing this office had secured the indictment.
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Prosecutors say that from December 2012 through January 2021, Nelson Counne met women using dating apps — claiming to be a globe-trotting wealthy retired art dealer and investor with homes in Manhattan, London and the South of France.
In reality, it’s alleged that the 69-year-old Upper East Side resident — who also went by Nelson Roth and Justin Roth — financed what appeared to be a lavish lifestyle with money he had stolen from other victims, but had never actually traveled internationally and doesn’t even have a passport.
Here’s how prosecutors say the scheme worked: After feigning romantic interest in women, sweeping them off their feet, Counne would ask for cash for investments, sometimes hinting he had access to inside information, prosecutors say. Not taking no for an answer, Counne allegedly pressed the women until they relented despite reservations.
The Manhattan DA’s Office says Mr. Counne would claim that the investments were “gray area between legal and illegal,” and included access to the Initial Public Offering for the Chinese technology and e-commerce giant Alibaba, as well as a startup he claimed would hold an online lottery where college students could pay to enter for a chance to win tuition.
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Once Counne had that initial investment, investigators say he would hit the women up for more money — saying he needed the extra cash to get deals done or for salaries and housing costs for the startup — promising to pay them back their investment plus a handsome profit in just a few weeks time.
According to the New Yorker, which last year profiled several women who said they were victimized by Counne, the alleged con artist was a regular at Orsay, Campagnola and Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle. Now, Nelson Counne is currently in custody, facing three felony counts of Grand Larceny as well as one count of Scheme to Defraud.
“We urge everyone to exercise caution when told there’s an investment opportunity that seems too good to be true,” said DA Bragg, “If you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, we are here to help – call us at 212-335-8900.”
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