It is hard to see how anyone falls prey to the “Hello I am a Nigerian Prince…” scam or falls into the grasps of a “Help I am an American soldier stuck in…” emails. Especially during the age of the internet, when verification and information are at the tip of our keystrokes. Surely no con man or hucksters are still able to run a game?
Yet this is what the infamous Thierry Tilly did for over 10 years, from 1999 to 2009, he made off with over $5 million due to the gullibility of a certain French aristocrat.
The Vedrines family were enjoying life and living in full aristocratic fashion, lavish parties and the flair of wealth, in their ancestral home in Monflanquin. This all ended abruptly when Tilly infiltrated the family and in their words, they fell prey to his “hypnotic powers.” He was able to play on their paranoia of the outside world and convince them they were at the heart of a plot by the Freemasons. Tilly was able to convince the head of the family Christine de Vedrines, that she was even being betrayed by members of her own family. Thus the family became immensely reclusive and closed themselves behind the doors of their home.
Tilly was able to convince the family they did not need professionals to look after their accounts and estates, he could do it better he said. He sold most of their properties and they never saw any of the proceeds. And drained their offshore accounts, stealing everything he could get his hands on. He claimed it was too dangerous for them to own their big chateau and moved them to Oxford, where they could hide. In Oxford, he was able to convince them to work as cooks or gardeners and yet, he would take most of their earnings.
Accounts state that he was able to gain such a controlling power over the family members by using techniques of psychological abuse, he would lock them in their bedrooms in the dark. This is seen as a brainwashing technique because the victim loses all sense of time, making them completely complacent.
“All my money I gave to him. I couldn’t buy a Mars bar, that was seen as theft from the family.” – Amaury de Vedrines
Eventually, Christine with the help of her cousin was able to smuggle herself back to France and alert the authorities. Tilly is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for extortion, imprisonment, and abuse. The once proud and wealthy Vedrines find themselves completely broke and living in social housing.