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'Catch Me If You Can' con man stands trial

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DiCaprio with Tom Hanks in the 2002 film "Catch Me If You Can" Photo: DPA
16:26 CET+01:00
A self-confessed fan of the Leonardo DiCaprio film "Catch Me If You Can" appeared in court on Wednesday, accused of cooking up bizarre lies to steal a total of €375,000 from eight women.

The 33-year-old Palestinian man, charged by a court in Munich with 59 counts of serious fraud, was accused of persuading women to give him money under bizarre false pretences, Die Welt newspaper said on Wednesday.

Two women from Stuttgart told police the accused had claimed he was on the run from the Israeli secret service who were hounding him for disobeying orders in the war in Lebanon. He allegedly begged them for money so that he could buy an American identity.

He swindled them out of €19,000 and €17,000 each, wrote the paper.

Another victim, an employee of the French embassy in Berlin, claimed she lost just over €90,000 - almost her entire life's savings - to the man when he posed as a manager of a real estate fund looking for an investment.

The man, who in fact ran a failing pottery shop in Berlin, was finally arrested last year after police received a tip-off from a further victim in Munich who claims she gave him €230,000 for a non-existent real estate project.

When they searched his flat police found €144,500 in cash under his mattress. Two of his victims had been pregnant with his children and have since had abortions, wrote the paper.

The divorced father-of-one told police his shop had been losing money and that he had got into massive debt, but he denied having deceived his victims and claimed the money had just been loans.

He did admit during interrogation that he admired and would like to be like Frank Abagnale Jr, the real life conman played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Catch Me If You Can.

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The man's trial is to continue in December when his victims are to give their testimonies in court.

The Local/jlb

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