- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
- Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Senate Dems wary of immigration politics
- Summer camp for 1 percenters: Sushi, limos and shopping at FAO Schwarz
- Colorado gun crackdown law found to be built on faulty data
- Hank Aaron steps to fundraising plate for Democrat Michelle Nunn
- ISIL terrorists blow up burial site of Jonah, vow more of same
- Impeach Obama, say 35 percent in new poll
- Taliban yank 14 Shiites off bus, bind and shoot them on Afghan road
- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
- Dick’s Sporting Goods lays off 478 PGA golf pros
Swindler gets 8 years for duping a rich French family
Question of the Day
PARIS — An alleged modern-day Rasputin was convicted Tuesday of brainwashing three generations of an aristocratic French family for nearly a decade, swindling them out of their fortune and their turreted manor.
Thierry Tilly, who was sentenced to eight years in prison by a court in Bordeaux, became a confidante of the landed Vedrines family in 2000 in a case that has riveted and shocked the nation.
Over nine years, the man who local media dubbed “the guru” used manipulation techniques to convince the family of 11 — ages 16 to 89 — of a secret plot against their lives, according to court testimony.
The family was so convinced of his story that they locked themselves inside their chateau for several years, terrified they would be killed.
They sold off their possessions — including the family manor — and handed over $5.7 million.
French media reported that the money was poured into a fake Canadian charity that Tilly claimed was set up to pay the Vedrines’ “protectors.”
The French-born Tilly was convicted of arbitrary detention, using violence against vulnerable people and abusing people weakened by “psychological subjection.”
“Eight years is a small price to pay for what he did to our family and children,” Christine de Vedrines, who first alerted police to Thierry’s actions, told the Sipa news agency Tuesday. “The trial is behind us, and we will do everything to rebuild.”
Tilly’s accomplice, Jacques Gonzalez, was sentenced to four years in prison.
Despite the conviction, Tilly remained defiant, invoking his right as a British citizen and saying he would take his case to the European Court of Justice, Sipa reported.
Tilly’s lawyer had argued that the family from the 13th-century village of Monflanquin in southwestern France had acted willingly.
“These 11 family members aren’t ill, have their feet on the ground, a level of self-awareness. Eleven people manipulated by mysterious forces by a single man? The legal basis for case is weak,” lawyer Alexandre Novion told The Associated Press.
Although Tilly was deemed mentally stable during his trial, French media have reported that he has a history of lies and exaggerations.
Tilly claimed before the Bordeaux court that he was a member of the Habsburg dynasty, that he once almost played soccer for Marseille and that he knew former French President Francois Mitterrand.
“[The trial] has only just begun,” Tilly declared.
His attorney, meanwhile, said he was not aware that his client is a British citizen.
The case raised echoes of another controversial trial involving France’s richest woman — 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who was swindled by a French tax lawyer into handing over a private Seychelles island to him.
TWT Video Picks
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
- PRUDEN: The Democratic-wannabe mice under Hillary Clinton's feet
- Crime-ridden U.S. cities differ on ways to fight gun violence
- Let it roll: D.C. Council hits Las Vegas on taxpayer's dime, leaves $14,000 tab
- Obama takes aim at 'corporate deserters'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq