By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
After the New Year's Eve masquerade ball he threw in a tent in Bella's parking lot, Manos began preparing for an even bigger occasion—the reopening of the restaurant and the debut of Bella Boyz.
Manos thought that Thome and Ek had looked at his hard drive, which would have led them to the Facebook page his estranged boyfriend Jamal Alexander had created called "Stop Michael de Medici," detailing the kidnapping and other lurid stories about him. Manos says he hired a private investigator, confirming through phone records that Thome and Ek had been in touch with his cousin and Alexander. He hesitated to run from Dallas with the party so close, so he stuck around for the big event on Friday night—but on Sunday afternoon he cut out.
On January 13 Manos returned to Dallas to gather his belongings, and met Hezlep to discuss restarting SFR in San Francisco or L.A, where there were greater opportunities, he said. Besides, with his cousin, Thome and Ek on his trail, they had to leave right away.
Thome says that Manos began sending her threatening texts. "He kept telling me that he was in town, that he was watching me, that he was pulling my phone records," she says. Word circulated among Manos' business partners that he'd left Dallas, and McCulley, who is also a private investigator, began piecing together details of Manos' unseemly past.
As McCulley recalls it, the night of Manos' arrest played out in high Hollywood drama. Thome had been in touch with Hezlep's parents, and learned he was in a San Francisco hotel with his friend Mike. Thome passed the details along to McCulley, who says he immediately began looking up hotels online. McCulley phoned several, asking if anyone had checked in with a black lab that night, and after confirming that the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf had a guest named Doug Hezlep, he warned the hotel manager that he had a guest who was running from the law.
In the hotel room a half hour later, Hezlep opened the door to six U.S. Marshals and a corrections official, who entered the room and handcuffed the pair but shortly released Hezlep. Although the marshals had shut Mimi out on the balcony, where she barked as they searched the room, Manos convinced them to let her in. He kissed her goodbye as they led him away.
On January 22 The Dallas Morning News broke the story that con artist Michael Manos had been caught in San Francisco after trying to steal from celebrities and charities in Dallas. Petrie filed a complaint against Manos for $70,000 in unauthorized charges to his credit card, though he now says he's settled the issue with American Express and is not interested in pressing charges. Rumors swirled across Alexander's Facebook page, where Manos' business partners in Dallas, Atlanta and New York united to share stories and wonder how much they should believe. Ek and Thome were among those posting updates on the Facebook page, detailing what drove Manos out of Dallas.
Manos maintains the stories about him are all overblown, the product of his cousin and Alexander feeding speculation about his true identity. Now that he's been caught, he says, "I gained my freedom and my life back."
Still, the law may not be done with Michael Manos. Dallas police detectives may still pursue credit-card abuse charges based on Petrie's complaint, plus a felony charge arising from his use of a false name on the Ashton rental form. In San Francisco, where impersonation charges were brought against Manos, then dropped, the DA's office says they still could pick up charges if they're able to find the real Mordan Stefanov. In Atlanta, perhaps most seriously, ongoing investigations into CDM International's finances could spoil Manos' plans to live free under his real name. If the authorities want to question Manos now, they know where to find him. He currently resides in the Dutchess County jail, back home in Poughkeepsie.
He's working on a book, he says, and has an agent shopping it around. "Think Jackie Collins with a mixture of reality," he says. Manos says he finished the first chapter about getting arrested in San Francisco, the night of his parole hearing. And for busting parole, which sparked the cross-country cons, aliases and a fugitive life of glamour, Manos received only a 12-month sentence.
He awaits a move upstate where he'll spend the rest of 2010 in prison, but is already making plans for the parties he'll throw once he gets out. Mordan Stefanov may be finished in Dallas, but Michael Manos says he is looking forward to returning and picking up where he left off.