Wooley kept the man in the trunk for four days, meeting up with Manos at diners and delis to strategize. With the roommate's ATM card, they withdrew money from his account. Wooley finally let the man go in a Red Lobster parking lot, and returned to a friend's apartment, getting high and waiting for the police. Manos says he caught a friend's private plane and flew to L.A, becoming ensconced in a Hollywood scene as glamorous as he'd ever known.

Though on the run, he spent nearly a year in L.A., beginning his first event-planning business and becoming close to Bertha Joffrion, a celebrity stylist who did Donna Summer's hair. On one careless trip to visit friends in New York, though, Manos went to Albany, and was arrested in his hotel. Convicted for being an accomplice to the kidnapping, and for robbery, grand larceny and possession of stolen property, he was handed a 15-to-life sentence.

From the day his sentence began in 1989, Manos says his life became a hellish nightmare. Shuttled around the New York prison system, he claims he was repeatedly beaten and raped, though he was allowed in 1993 to marry Joffrion in a Buffalo prison during one of her visits. That relationship didn't stop him from attempting suicide in 1997. The attempt stemmed in part, he would later claim in a 2003 lawsuit, from the prison's failure to protect him when he turned informant against inmates and guards.

Trina Rose agreed to be Manos’ assistant on Pop Life for $35 a day. She sued him for non-payment,
but he failed to show up for court.
PATRICK MICHELS
Trina Rose agreed to be Manos’ assistant on Pop Life for $35 a day. She sued him for non-payment, but he failed to show up for court.

In 2004, weeks before he was paroled, Manos says he was crushed to learn that Joffrion had died of a stroke. "I was desolate when I got out. She was my best friend. I could run down the street in high heels and panties and she wouldn't have cared."

On the outside, Manos says he became convinced that prison officials would retaliate against him for his lawsuit and revoke his parole. Before he could give his deposition, Manos fled. His attorney in the suit, Joel Walter, still sounds frustrated by his client's actions. "Running off from parole is the dumbest thing you're gonna do," he says. "Sooner or later, they're gonna catch you."

Miami & Houston

A fugitive, Manos says he crossed the Atlantic on his rich European boyfriend's private plane, landing on private airstrips where he wouldn't need a passport. He spent time with friends in Miami, where he saw a hotel named Medici, and the name stuck with him. He liked the sound of the name, rich and European, and took it as his own. "I had to create an identity. And it wasn't an identity created to scam people, but once you tell one lie, the lie gets bigger," he says.

In mid-2005 Christian Michael de Medici arrived in Houston, where he began throwing parties and movie premieres at gay clubs around town. One day Manos picked out a black lab puppy from a litter that belonged to an acquaintance. He named the dog Mimi, and the two were seldom apart.

Manos met a skinny 20-year-old named Jamal Alexander behind the counter at a Wells Fargo one day, and handed him a flyer to his next party. The two hit it off, and two months later Alexander left his parents' home in Sugar Land to live with Manos. While the two traveled and lived together for more than two years, their relationship did not end well. Today, each accuses the other of drug abuse, cheating and prostitution—and serial lying.

In October Manos moved to Los Angeles, and Alexander drove with Mimi to meet him on the coast. Manos was looking for the right place to establish himself and settled on Atlanta, but not before living a few weeks in Chicago. Alexander recalls leaving Chicago in a hurry. There wasn't even time to pack up their apartment.

Atlanta

It was boom time in Atlanta's real estate market, a first-rate sandbox for house-flippers making a run at big money. For someone long on ambition but short on cash, experience and scruples, this was the place to be. Manos arrived in early 2006 with a five-year plan, he says, determined to build an honest cash base to support the lifestyle he'd enjoyed before prison. Manos says he had an idea for a turnkey real estate operation, buying up neglected homes in up-and-coming neighborhoods, renovating them, and renting them back out. He named his company CDM International, and grew it with bank loans and cash from small-time investors who bankrolled renovations on individual homes.

Even if he hadn't assumed the phony identity of Christian Michael de Medici, as a convicted felon on the run, there was no way he could apply for bank loans or file the paperwork to start a business. For that, he enlisted the help of Robert Vaughn, an acquaintance who bought into the business plan and put his name on the company records.

"[Manos] did a good job of not representing himself as an owner or a principal in the company," recalls Scott Reed, then-CEO of Republic Bank, which loaned CDM money. An audit commissioned by CDM months before its collapse painted a rosy picture of the company books. At the end of 2007 CDM supposedly held real-estate assets of $13.2 million against $9.6 million in debt, and had $2.5 million in revenue across its rental, construction and media businesses. Reed says banks aren't making loans today like they did for Manos and CDM. "People were flipping houses, they were not getting proper appraisals. Atlanta's been a hotbed of mortgage fraud."

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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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