Thai police arrest ‘George Clooney’ fraudster

The police in Thailand have arrested an Italian and his wife who fled a jail sentence for using the name of actor George Clooney to attract investment in a bogus clothing company.

Thailand’s crime suppression division said Francesco Galdeli, 58, was arrested near the resort of Pattaya on suspicion of staying in the country illegally. His wife, Vanja Goffi, 45, was also arrested on suspicion of overstaying her visa. The Thai police said the suspect’s location was provided by the Italian authorities. 

“Until 2013, they would go back and forth to Thailand,” said the Italian police spokeswoman Andrea Vitalone. “They were considered respectable citizens and even benefactors amid the Italian community in Thailand. Galdelli made massive donations for a charity supporting disabled children and children with HIV. Then, they went on the run.”

Clooney sued them in an Italian trial in 2010 and testified against them, saying they had used his name fraudulently.

The couple launched the clothing line, GC, and specialised in private sales to individuals, purporting to have Clooney’s endorsement and displaying his signature.

The couple altered photographs, showing them with the actor at promotional events for their products.

Clooney said he had not approved any affiliation with the imaginary brand “GC Exclusive by George Clooney”.

“During interrogation, Francesco confessed to claiming to be George Clooney and opening a clothes business to trick people into sending money,” the Thai police said.

An Interpol red notice was issued for Galdeli, who was sentenced by a Milan court in 2010 to more than eight years in jail for impersonating Clooney to trick investors.

Clooney said he wanted to testify “because I believe in the judicial system”.

“These people are using my name, not to cheat me, but [to cheat] other people,” Clooney told the Italian court.

After fleeing Italy, Galdeli was arrested in July 2014 at Pattaya’s Dusit Thani Hotel but managed to escape the next day.

He had reportedly bribed prison guards Bt20,000 (US$640) for the escape.

Galdeli had purportedly lived in Thailand for around seven years.

The couple are accused of other scams in Italy, including selling fake Rolex watches online and sending packets of salt to customers instead.


Pattaya is always associated with crime. Picture credit: Wikimedia