A Royal Scam

Kent with check

I’ve never cared much about money. For me, there are so many other delights in life more stable and enduring—family, writing, nature, exercise. But when a check for $150,000, drawn on the account of the royal family in Monaco arrives by overnight FedEx express, it gets my attention.

So, here’s the story. I received a lovely email from Stefano Casiraghi, Jr., grandson of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace (you know, Grace Kelly, the stunning movie star of the 1950s). In his very gracious note, he explained that he is getting married in August and his fiancée Emilia is a huge fan of my work. He invited me to the wedding as a surprise for his bride, offering to pick up all my expenses and those of any family or friends I might wish to accompany me. If this wasn’t possible, a personally inscribed copy of one of my novels would suffice.

Well, we’re in a pandemic, so of course I had to decline. But I offered to inscribe and send a novel. Stefano sent me a very nice email in reply, indicating that his assistant Lou would be in touch regarding the details for mailing the book and also to provide me with a suitable thank you offering.

Lou contacted me immediately with his address in Falls Church, VA, directing me to send him the book and asking me for a good mailing address so that he could arrange for me to receive a cashier’s check in the amount of $150,000 as a thank you from Stefano. I protested that it was a bit extravagant, but Lou insisted and said the amount was to cover expenses should I decided to attend the wedding and if not and if the money seemed excessive, I could always give it to charity. A fine sentiment, I thought. Lou said the cashier’s check would arrive the following day.

And it did, by FedEx overnight express, drawn on a bank in California.

I’m married to a lawyer. She looked at me over our morning coffee and simply shook her head. She’d been warning me.

“There’s no indication of scam here,” I pointed out.

“Just wait,” she said.

Oh, what a smart woman. Shortly after the check arrived, I received an email from Stefano, asking if the check had been delivered and asking me to confirm that Lou had arranged for the correct amount. When I replied, he immediately shot me back a note saying, in essence, “$150,000!?!?! It should have been for $15,000.” But he advised me to go ahead and deposit the check and we could make arrangements to return the overage.

“Aha,” my astute wife said, over another cup of coffee. “The plot thickens.”

Okay, clearly a scam, but no damage done yet. So I sent Stefano a note back saying that I was uncomfortable cashing a check about which there had been such confusion. I suggested that I simply send the check to Lou and await a check in the correct amount. “No, no,” Stefano said. “I’ll see that the check is covered and we can work out the rest.” But I protested, suggesting that it would best if I just shredded the check to be certain nothing untoward came of it.

At which point, Lou got back into the game. “Don’t do that! I’m already in enough trouble with Stefano. I could lose my job. Just deposit the damn check.”

Long story short, after a good may pleas deal of haranguing on the part of both Stefano and Lou to deposit the check and we could work things out, I shredded that cashier’s check made out in the amount of $150,000. I just happened to have an appointment with my banker the next day, who listened to my story and shook his head. “Happens all the time,” he said. “And people fall for it.”

I’ve been hit up dozens of times by Nigerian princes, but Monaco royalty was a first for me. Has anyone else been approached with this scam, a royal wedding in Monaco? Or is it one reserved for writers?