Couple who wrecked French chateau after pretending to be buyers jailed

The con artists had a history of targeting high value properties

The court in Versailles passed sentence on the couple
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A couple who posed as buyers to con their way into a French chateau only to squat it for four months and wreck the interior have been jailed by a court in Versailles.

The court heard that the con artists, known in court filings as Michael B. and Céline L., made an €11m offer to buy the Château de Sauvage d’Emancé (Yvelines) in March 2023.

The German owner allowed them to live in the chateau while awaiting payment, which they told her would be delayed “due to bank complications caused by Brexit”.

“In July 2023, when I had still not received any payment, I made the journey to France from Berlin,” said owner Gabrielle B.

“I waited for them for three days at a hotel in Rambouillet, then I went to the château,” she said.

“It was an absolute disgrace… Everything had been wrecked. Nothing could be recovered”.

The con artists had cut up the 18th Century draperies, sanded down the antique wood carvings, torn up the flooring and sold the furniture.

Read more: Fraudsters open shops claiming to sell big brand kitchens in France

A history of scams

The squatters had abandoned the chateau, but the Rambouillet gendarmes and detectives from Versailles tasked with the case soon identified a pattern to the con artists’ activity dating back almost twenty years.

In 2006 Michael B. swindled €140,000 from investors to put on a concert at the stadium of Racing Club de Lens. He had claimed that it would feature Robbie Williams.

He attempted the same scam two years later at Valenciennes Football Club, this time to put on a concert of French pop star Stromae.

The next trace investigators found was a manor house that the couple had squatted in Montfort l’Amaury (Yvelines). They had posed as buyers, and convinced the owner to rent it to them while the sale went through. The owner did not receive any rent.

The couple was finally caught while squatting another property, with a value of €1.6m, in Dolus d’Oléron (Charente-Maritime) in January 2024.

‘Lives are ruined by these scams’

Michael B. told the court in Versailles that while he accepted the facts of the case, his intentions were pure.

“In Sauvage, I was hoping to find investors to develop commercial activities: a factory that makes cups that fill up from the bottom, a restaurant by the lake, and a hotel business,” he said.

“But you had no investors,” the judge pointed out.

“No,” replied Michael B.

His partner, Céline L., told the court that she was also fooled by Michael B.

“He always told me he was solvent,” she said. “That he was going to get royalty payments for his work as a sound engineer. I was stupid, naive or in love… Today, I feel like a fool”

The prosecution told the court that the damage caused by the pair was not only financial and cultural, but also had a profound impact on the victims.

“Behind these scams, there are lives that are ruined,” said state procurer Alexis Bureau.

“There are countless unpaid bills, tradesmen left out of pocket… because of them one young tradesman is now in great financial difficulty and faces bankruptcy.”

The court sentenced Michel B. to two years of prison with a four-year suspended sentence. His partner, Céline L. received six months of prison and an 18-month suspended sentence.

However, so far the couple have only been judged for the damage to the Château de Sauvage d’Emancé.

“The media attention of this case means that it is highly likely that other victims will come forward,” a court source told 78 actu. “Now that they are in the hands of justice, a cascade of court cases will fall on them”.

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