Date: 23rd December 2000
Supermodels CLAUDIA SCHIFFER, ELLE MACPHERSON and NAOMI CAMPBELL have all allegedly been conned out of millions of dollars (pounds) by a wealthy restaurant boss.
Police say Italian-born TOMMASO BUTI, owner of the FASHION CAFE chain of restaurants, swindled the models and other investors out of $11 million (£7 million). He faces 20 years behind bars and a $22 million (£15 million) fine if he is found guilty. Buti, 33, and his brother FRANCESCO, 39, allegedly embezzled money from the restaurant chain to finance a champagne lifestyle. They had properties scattered across America and Europe, enjoyed luxury holidays and drove fast and expensive sports cars including FERRARIS and PORSCHES.
Interpol detectives are now trying to hunt down Francesco while Tommaso, who fled to Italy, has been captured and is currently awaiting extradition back to the America.
He went to America in 1989 and in 1995 he persuaded a number of supermodels to help him launch the Fashion Cafe in New York whose popularity slumped after an initial boom.
Apart from fraud charges, the Buti brothers also face 35 counts of wire tapping to carry out their 14 counts of transporting stolen property and one of money laundering. Tommaso has denied all 51 charges.