SAN FRANCISCO - A San Francisco man who claimed to be the son of the president of the Congo has been arrested and charged with fraud for allegedly bilking a Marin County real estate agent and his girlfriend of $1.6 million.
Blessed Marvelous Herve, 41, was charged with one count of wire fraud in a federal criminal complaint Wednesday and arrested in San Francisco that evening, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
The complaint was filed under seal and was unsealed after Herve made his initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday.
Herve, who is in custody, was ordered to return to the court of U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins on Monday for a bail hearing.
The wire fraud charge has a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if Herve is convicted.
An affidavit filed with the complaint by FBI Agent Brian Weber said Herve was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was granted asylum in the United States in 1999 and became a U.S. citizen last month.
Weber alleged in the affidavit that Herve defrauded the unidentified real estate agent and his girlfriend of $1.6 million between 2006 and 2012 by telling them a series of stories.
Herve allegedly at first told the agent that his father was the president of the Congo and wanted to buy several multimillion-dollar homes in the Bay Area.
Later, he said he needed help in recovering $43 million the U.S. government had supposedly seized from him. He promised the agent millions of dollars in bonuses, according to the affidavit.
Weber said the real estate agent gave Herve $635,000 until he became financially broke in 2009. At that point, the agent's girlfriend starting supplying money through bank wire transfers until she had given a total of $970,000 and also became broke in 2012, the affidavit said.
In 2008, the affidavit said, Herve told the real estate agent he was in trial in a federal court case in San Francisco to recover his money. But he told the agent he couldn't watch the court hearings because they were being held in secret under the authority of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Weber wrote that Herve told the real estate agent he lived in the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco and that the agent regularly met him in the hotel lobby to give him rides to the federal courthouse in 2008. But the agent never saw his rooms and the hotel has no record of Herve living there that year, Weber said in the affidavit.
From 2009 to 2012, Herve told the agent and his girlfriend he was in federal custody in connection with the alleged court case and communicated with them only by phone, promising that he would get his funds as soon as he was freed.
Weber wrote that the real estate agent said Herve seemed credible because he had documents including a complimentary letter from a U.S. senator and seemed confident and knowledgeable about the Bay Area real estate market.
The FBI agent wrote that the investigation of the case indicates Herve is not the son of a Congolese president, had "no intent or means" to repay his victims, had no court case concerning the alleged seizure of $43 million and was not in federal prison from 2009 to 2012.
Weber wrote that Herve's alleged actions appear to have been a variation of a scam sometimes referred to as a "Nigerian Prince" or "Nigerian Letter" scheme, in which a person claims ties to a wealthy foreign dignitary and seeks advance fees for gaining access to that wealth.