Local Woman Accused of Fraud: Prove It - NBC 7 San Diego

Local Woman Accused of Fraud: Prove It



    Local Woman Accused of Fraud: Prove It

    The lawyer for a Rancho Santa Fe woman, a self-proclaimed "Countess," says her client has been falsely accused of trading on the name of the famous Guggenheim family.

    Attorney Gretchen von Helms says her client, Catarina Pietra Toumei, is not guilty of federal wire fraud.

    "We're essentially saying 'prove it', to federal prosecutors," von Helms said. "We want to get to the bottom of this."

    Toumei is wanted by New York federal authorities for allegedly faking ties to the Guggenheim family to scheme high-end corporations and social elite out of billions of dollars.

    Local Woman Accused of Fraud: Prove It

    [DGO] Local Woman Accused of Fraud: Prove It
    She's accused of using the Guggenheim name to scam money from celebrities.
    (Published Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011)

    Toumei surrendered Wednesday at federal court in downtown San Diego. She claims she was never a fugitive from the law and that she contacted an attorney as soon as she learned she was wanted on federal wire fraud charges.

    Toumei was back in court Thursday afternoon for another hearing on bond, which will allow her to stay free while she waits a formal hearing sheduled for later this month in New York.

    Toumei, 45, whose LinkedIn profile says European Royalty bestowed her the title of “Lady,” is one of three defendants listed in a 165-page formal complaint released Monday that describes their alleged -- and unsuccessful -- attempts at investment fraud.

    The complaint alleges that defendants Toumei, Vladimir Zurvel and David Birnbaum pretended to be plaintiffs Guggenheim Capital LLC and Guggenheim Partners LLC, issuing documents with counterfeit Guggenheim marks that were identical to the plaintiffs’ in “font, type style and distinctive purple color.”

    The complaint includes documents addressed by Toumei where she seeks business relationships with President George W. Bush and media tycoon Robert Murdoch on Zurvel and Birnbaum’s behalf with Guggenheim substituted as the men’s last names.

    Zurvel and Birnbaum were both arraigned Monday.

     At the closing of one document signed by “Lady Catarina Toumei,” it reads: “The Bush family is always invited to Manhattan where they will be a guest of the Guggenheims, at any time.”

     In another document, Toumei advertises the availability of $1 billion worth of rough diamonds “from the private collection of the Guggenheim family.”

    On over 20 occasions, the defendants called The Coca-Cola Company to request a dinner meeting with the corporation’s senior leadership, according to the complaint.

    Other attempts at “bogus, large-scale transactions” involved bank guarantees, crude oil and gold, the complaint alleges. It also accuses the defendants of cyber piracy, asserting that Toumei registered the Internet domain name guggenheimadvisors.org on or about May 28, 2010.

    Toumei is free on $200,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in federal court in New York next week.

    Toumei's attorney says the federal wire fraud charge is essentially a re-packaging of a civil lawsuit filed against Toumei and two others by Guggenheim Partners LLC and Guggenheim Capital LLC. The lawsuit alleges that Toumei tried to raise money and make business relationships by using documents with counterfeit Guggenheim trademarks, allegations she denies.

    Toumei told reporters on Thursday, she looks forward to her day in court and the opportunity to tell her side of the story about the federal charges.