Michael Manos Was Living the Same Lie in Dallas That He Peddled Across the Country. Only Here, the Truth Caught Up with Him.

It was the kind of night Mordan Stefanov lived for: red-carpet treatment, limos, high fashion and free-flowing drinks—an A-list of moneyed guests, society and business types, and the poseurs who needed to be seen at the hottest party in town.

The January 8 celebration would mark the pinnacle of all he had accomplished in the four short glamorous months since he arrived in Dallas. It was billed as the grand reopening of the Uptown restaurant Bella, which had been remodeled and bore the brand of Stefanov's own flamboyant design—the sort of place where a jet-setting European party lover like himself would feel at home. Partygoers would have a chance to meet the "stars" of his new Dallas-based reality show, Bella Boyz, featuring Robert "Peach" Petrie and Anthony "Tony" Porcaro, co-owners of the restaurant, as well as Mordan Stefanov himself. They would be treated to the premiere of the promotional trailer for the series, which was being produced by Stefanov's production company, SFR Television ("The World's First Online Television Network with Original Programming"), which was part of his global media empire, SFR International. Another of his subsidiaries, SFR magazine, would be debuting its spring issue to guests.

Working the crowd with his bursts of "I love everybody" enthusiasm uttered with hints of a European accent, Stefanov himself could have been the night's main entertainment. He wore a sweater, scarf and vest—all the finest Alexander McQueen couture—with David Yurman jewelry as cameras caught his every prowl. He made certain photographers snapped him with only the best dressed, the most interesting of his hundreds of guests, only the few who could hold their own beside him in the frame. He was slightly built with an orange-blonde hair weave unlike any color in nature, swooping down across his forehead. He could have been 30 or 40, but who could tell? He seemed to make a point of keeping people guessing.

Michael Manos hid behind a series of aliases after jumping his parole, but he could never keep a low profile. Opposite: During Pop Life’s 2008 red-carpet premiere in New York City, Manos may have revealed more about himself than he intended, saying in an interview that his show “follows my life, which is inspired by real events.”
Brett Vander
Michael Manos hid behind a series of aliases after jumping his parole, but he could never keep a low profile. Opposite: During Pop Life’s 2008 red-carpet premiere in New York City, Manos may have revealed more about himself than he intended, saying in an interview that his show “follows my life, which is inspired by real events.”

Inside this world, the night belonged to Stefanov. The name of his new media conglomerate, SFR—"Society Fashion Report"—lit up the walls, and screens around the room flashed highlights from the dozen parties he'd thrown in the last two months in Dallas: celebrity appearances, mostly by actor Billy Zane, and auctions for children's charities. And these same screens played the Bella Boyz trailer, as the voiced-over montage announced "television's hottest new reality series." "Two successful business owners...One magazine publisher—Mordan, the deal breaker...It's Entourage meets Hell's Kitchen...The money. One restaurant. The Nightlife. The Brotherhood. The Power....Hang with the 'Boyz,' Spring 2010."

Turns out, the "Boyz" couldn't hang together that long.

As his guests drank up the production, they were unaware of the darker drama unfolding around them. Mordan Stefanov was not who he appeared. He was Michael Manos, a convicted felon, a fugitive from justice, a parole violator who had, for the last five years, fled from New York to Atlanta to Dallas under a series of fake identities.

Manos knew that his time here had come to an end. And so did four other people at the party, employees who wondered why they could find hardly any trace of him on the Internet, why he seemed to be a man with no history.

It took time and ingenuity to connect the dots, but they soon learned about Manos' shadowy past: his alleged real-estate and charity scams, a violent kidnapping, late-night romps in the White House and others who'd been trying for years to send him back to prison. He had risked the same unmasking in Atlanta and New York, and like before, he ran.

A 10-day manhunt followed, ending with Manos' arrest in a San Francisco hotel room. With law enforcement in at least four states—Texas, Georgia, New York and California—competing to prosecute him first, he was extradited to New York, the state that maintained jurisdiction over his parole.

He would be skewered in the local press, condemned as a con artist who had used multiple aliases to hide his true identity, a "glam scammer" who defrauded the gay community, the rich and famous, by gaining their confidence with the glow of his phony celebrity. He would milk their generosity with appeals to local charities, and draw on their vanity with his seemingly glamorous life. But from a jailhouse phone interview in Poughkeepsie, New York, over the course of several days in March, Manos paints a different picture of his many selves. He would argue, first of all, that his celebrity was real, cultivated during his seminal years in the nation's top party scenes. As Manos sees it, his only crime was jumping parole so he could seek a new life, to pursue his big ambitions of wealth, glamour and fame unshackled to his past mistakes.

"I did everything right, I gave to charity, I was a good, productive member of society," he says. "They chased me down and made everybody in Dallas think that I was America's Most Wanted. I mean, what'd I do? I failed to report to parole."

In Michael Manos' world, silence may be the most dangerous thing of all, permitting a crack in the façade, the space where doubt and reality leak in. With Manos talking, though, his world is the shining little fiefdom where you want to be, a pristine semi-reality of glitter and booze and all the right answers.

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10 comments
Henry Vinson
Henry Vinson

I know Michael Manos well and he leaves a path of destruction. He always destroys everyone around him and he quietly disappears as a thief in the night.

marie
marie

I met that criminal when he was in Sing Sing twice a parole violator. Everything that comes out of that criminals mouth is a lie.

Dave
Dave

"Dallas?" celebrities, society, "bella Boyz hottest new reality show?" is this some kind of a joke. What next "the real Housewives of Collin County?' I can't stop laughing.

Joe
Joe

Haha, I wonder who the dumbass was that let him into inner circles.

Mark R.
Mark R.

I met Tony and "Peach" the same night of the NY's party. Nice guys, sorry to see they were taken. My brush with fame, I guess :) Good Job, Observer folks!!!

Ginny
Ginny

Sounds like his name should be Seneca Smith! Thnat is the biggest con artist I have ever run into- lies to make you think he is someone that he is not, always changing his name, steals stuff and sells it to others (like cars) and needs to be in prison.If you run into someone like 6'5 who says his dad is in charge of Virgin records or something else big and rich, you may want to think of this article and BE CAREFUL!!!

chevytexas
chevytexas

Hm, "defrauded the gay community"? I hardly think that statement flies. "Defrauded a few self-deluded queens" doesn't make a community; chumps come in every category. Dallas isn't much different from Atlanta in recognizing a scam, but allowing it to proceed for the sense of theater. This guy's story is interesting for an article, not much of a bump in the scale of fraud. Doesn't anyone remember the Meaders' anymore? Shades of the Potashniks.

Ben Had'ee
Ben Had'ee

Had a relative show up at that Bella party and they called me going off about what a special event it was..I could smell the scam from their description of everything and when I saw pictures of this cartoon character working the "red carpet" omg I cracked up laughing. In a way these kind of characters are good for cities...they remind us all of how thin the line is between the real thing and make believe. How could anyone take his "scene" seriously...if they did..maybe they need to analyze why. This smacks of Bruno'esq antics where the fool may be making a bigger fool out of it's victims.

Hall
Hall

This happens every year or two in Dallas. Last one I remember was the 'Rockefeller' child, virtually identical facts. Come on, anybody with half a brain knew when they met him, heard all the plans, this was a con. A high-rise leased without a credit check? Nobody sat him down, "Who the Hell are you?" (I can understand a Reagan administration official being too stupid, that's another story.) It was fun, entertaining, in the grand scheme of things, really didn't cost all that much.

Skipper
Skipper

BC Dallas is a suckers town. There are several "high flyers" in Ft. Worth too. All the ladies of court like be entertained by the flamboyant jesters and will get burned if they get too close to their flaming batons.

 
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