This was the de Medici that Sona Chambers remembers blowing into her office one day: a seemingly accomplished business owner decked out in jewelry and furs, attended by a limo and a bodyguard. At the time, Chambers worked at the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, a prominent Atlanta charity founded by Jane Fonda. Manos helped sponsor events with G-CAPP even though Chambers had reservations about him. A background check, however, turned up nothing.

Manos threw a lavish party and donated $21,000 to sponsor three girls in the G-CAPP program. After his appearance at a 70th birthday party for Jane Fonda, society magazines ran with news of Manos' birthday present to Fonda: a house in a high-risk neighborhood, for use in a G-CAPP program. Chambers remained suspicious of Manos, contacting law enforcement to check up on his real identity. In the end, though, Manos made good on his donations. "I mean, it was unfathomable to me that we got money," Chambers says.

Manos hadn't been in touch with his mother since he jumped parole, but now that he was established in Atlanta he invited her to visit, and she says she couldn't believe what her son had made of himself. When he didn't take a limo, he drove one of three Mercedes leased under the company name. She accompanied him to a Monte Carlo-themed benefit he threw for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and he showed her some of his nearly 40 properties. But in what would prove to be a fateful decision, he invited his cousin, Tracy Bayone, to move from Poughkeepsie to Atlanta and work for him at CDM. Manos says he paid his cousin's rent, paid her son's private-school tuition and bought them both cars.

Tony Porcaro, one of the owners of Bella Restaurant and Bar, would have
been Manos’ online reality show co-star. Opposite: On January 8, during Manos’ last
big party in Dallas, he debuted a trailer for his online reality show, Bella Boyz.
HAL SAMPLES
Tony Porcaro, one of the owners of Bella Restaurant and Bar, would have been Manos’ online reality show co-star. Opposite: On January 8, during Manos’ last big party in Dallas, he debuted a trailer for his online reality show, Bella Boyz.
On January 20, a team of U.S. Marshals caught up with Manos in
his room at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Eartha L. Goodwin
On January 20, a team of U.S. Marshals caught up with Manos in his room at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

But at least two former employees charge that the business was rife with fraud. One of them was Andrea Radermacher, then a CDM events planner, who says that Manos offered her the opportunity to invest $35,000 to rehab a CDM house, but that only $15,000 was ever spent. Radermacher maintains that CDM pocketed the rest. Manos also offered her the chance to invest in CDM directly: She gave him $225,000, her family's life savings, and in exchange, he agreed to pay her each month $6,500 plus a generous rate of interest and return the balance at the end of 12 months. "That went on for about five months when he paid me that, and then that's when he disappeared," she says.

Manos began having problems with Bayone, who wasn't pulling her weight, he says, and he grew tired of covering her bills. He fired her from CDM, and she retaliated by threatening to report his fugitive status to the police. Former employees say it was clear in the last few months of 2007 that CDM had serious money troubles. Undaunted, Manos threw a grand opening party on March 9 for the new hair salon he partly owned, and a few days later, he was gone.

Manos effectively pulled the plug on CDM, changing his e-mail addresses and phone number to avoid all contact, and leaving Vaughn on the hook. Employees quit receiving paychecks and tenants who'd been paying rent to CDM were turned out of their houses when the banks foreclosed. Vaughn, the only one whose name was ever on the CDM paperwork, declared bankruptcy in April.

Radermacher and other CDM employees alerted banks and law enforcement when Manos dropped out of sight. "It's destroyed us," Radermacher says. "I could never figure out why, being such a flamboyant person, how much he loved being the center of attention, how nobody could ever find him."

New York City

Even though a wanted man, Manos felt little compunction about returning to New York regularly from Atlanta, living in Trump Tower and working to expand CDM's holdings. Even after losing his real-estate company, Manos maintained a busy social schedule, turning his attention to event planning and looking for a struggling nightclub to take over.

Hugo de Freitas says he met de Medici through a friend in April 2008, and got to know him because they frequented the same clubs. Late one night, de Freitas says, he called the friend—who was out with Manos—with an idea for a reality show. The show would feature a few regular guys working and partying hard in New York, and a rich European trust-fund baby living a life of leisure in New York and trying to break into the scene. "Every single idea I had," de Freitas says, "he grabbed it and ran away with it."

Manos moved quickly with the idea, assembling a small production crew by July for a show he'd call Pop Life: The Adventures of a de Medici. The production assistant he hired was Trina Rose, a recent New School graduate who was well known in New York's gay nightlife. Rose says Manos made it easy to get excited about the project.

"He was the CEO of CDM Trust, of CDM International, which was also Worldwide Events and Marketing and films and movies and productions and everything. The business card was 16 lines," Rose says. "Everything was always over the top."

After amassing around 50 hours of footage, Manos announced in October that MTV wanted to pick up the show. "He made me get in contact with the head of MTV programming," Rose says. "Once the guy said 'Yeah, send over your stuff,' to de Medici it was, 'All right, we're good.' That was often what he did...Everything's happening simultaneously and there's no fruit. It's all talk."

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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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