A former Italian national volleyball star has been conned out of close to GBP 600,000 by a catfishing scam that went on for over a decade and convinced him that he was engaged to a Brazilian supermodel.
Roberto Cazzaniga, 42, fell victim to the scam that led him to believe that he was engaged to the Brazilian Victoria’s Secret supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio for over a decade.
The cruel con began in 2008 when Roberto was introduced to ‘Maya’ over the phone by a mutual friend named Manuela.
It later turned out that Manuela had not introduced Roberto to Maya, but instead to the alleged mastermind of the whole scam, a woman identified only as Valeria, who lives in Sardinia.
The couple never met face-to-face, but Roberto fell madly in love “with her voice”, and they even ended up getting engaged.
The couple often spoke on the phone, and Roberto received countless pictures of the woman – in reality Alessandra Ambrosio – he thought would one day be his wife. The pictures were all allegedly sent to him by Valeria.
Danilo, Roberto’s brother, explained: “One day he was up in the room, in the dark. I see him crying, I ask him what he has and he tells me that he has fallen in love but this woman is in intensive care for a heart operation.”
Roberto regularly sent money to Maya to pay for a heart condition that had been invented by the scammers.
Along with payments for heart operations and medicines, he also sent Maya various luxury presents and a brand new Alfa Romeo MiTo. He claims that the scam cost him over EUR 700,000 (GBP 591,000).
It was not until Roberto’s teammates from his current Serie B volleyball team ‘New Mater’ pointed out to him that he might be getting scammed that Roberto started to doubt the legitimacy of the relationship.
He told Le lene, an Italian television programme, that he has found himself drowning in debt as a result of the scam.
He said: “I have so many debts, it’s not easy ‘waking up from a coma’.”
While the scam was going on, the real Alessandra Ambrosio has been in and out of three relationships.
An Italian reporter tracked down Valeria and confronted her, but she denied everything and claimed that she is in fact good friends with Maya.
The Italian authorities are investigating the case.