A couple dubbed the “Italian Bonnie and Clyde” who impersonated the US actor George Clooney to sell their clothing line have been arrested in Thailand.
Francesco Galdelli, 58, and his wife Vanya Goffi, 45, who have been on the run for six years, were arrested Saturday in the Thai city of Pattaya in a joint operation by Royal Thai Police and Italian agents from Interpol, Italian police said in a statement.
In 2010, Clooney took the witness stand in Italy and accused the couple of fraudulently using his name and forged signatures to create a bogus fashion line.
Galdelli and Goffi also orchestrated a series of scams and frauds including selling fake Rolex watches online and sending their victims packets of salt instead of watches, Italian police said.
The pair were convicted and sentenced in 2014 – Galdelli to 8 years and 4 months, Goffi to 6 years and 5 months – by Italy’s supreme court. But by then they had fled the country and were wanted on an Interpol red notice issued by Italy.
“Until 2013, they would go back and forth to Thailand,” Italian police’s Andrea Vitalone told CNN. “They were considered respectable citizens and even benefactors amid the Italian community in Thailand. Galdelli even made massive donations for a charity supporting disabled children and children with HIV. Then, they went on the run.”
They were finally caught on Saturday after police surrounded the luxury villa where they were holed up, police said.
Galdelli subsequently confessed to impersonating George Clooney in order to scam people, a Thai police spokesman told CNN.
He was arrested on charges of illegally entering and staying in Thailand since “there was no legitimate migration record of his current entrance and stay,” police said. Goffi, whose entry had been registered, was charged with overstaying in the country.
Galdelli was previously arrested in 2014, at the Dusit Thani Hotel in the Thai resort city of Pattaya. But he managed to escape a day later, Italian police said.
Local police found out he had bribed prison guards in charge of his transfer, paying them 20.000 Thai Baht (£500), who he personally withdrew from a cash machine while in custody, police said.
The two Italians are being detained at the detention center of the Immigration Bureau in Pattaya, awaiting extradition proceedings.
Italian police called the operation “Italian Bonnie and Clyde” after the American bank robbers of the Great Depression era.
Jib Pirada contributed reporting.