The Yorkville Swindler: How Albert Allan Rosenberg scammed his way into high society

The Yorkville Swindler: How Albert Allan Rosenberg scammed his way into high society

To his wife and girlfriends and business partners, Albert Allan Rosenberg was a billionaire, a Swiss baron, a merchant banker with holdings around the world, the most charming guy in the room. The incredible story of how he fooled them all

The Yorkville Swindler Rosenberg in 2011, when he was posing as a merchant banker
 

Looking back, it does seem unlikely that a Swiss billionaire baron would be seeking love on the Internet, but when Antoinette met Albert Rosenberg on eHarmony in February 2012, she just figured she got lucky. Along with the European title, he was also charming, successful, dashing and, yes, mega-rich, hard at work on his latest venture, a Canadian merchant bank called Marwa Holdings. He was educated at Harvard, fluent in French and German, a world traveller. Rosenberg had a thriving medical software business back in Zurich and a sizable trust in the multimillions. He was heir to the Ovaltine fortune, a direct descendent of Albert Wander, who invented the popular Swiss malt drink back in 1904. This was how he supported his lavish lifestyle. Or so he said.

Antoinette was 54 when she met Rosenberg and working at an Etobicoke medical clinic as an executive director (she requested that we not reveal her last name). She was divorced with two 20-something daughters and had recently restored a 100-year-old townhouse in Bloor West Village. She was comfortable and content, with a close circle of friends. Life changed dramatically on the arm of her new beau: she entered a social sphere of Bay Street lawyers, bankers and brokers who dealt in the seven figures. This was Rosenberg’s circle, and at the beginning ­Antoinette found the Pygmalion experience exhilarating. Her new boyfriend introduced her to fine food and the best French wines. He lived in a penthouse apartment in the Minto building at the corner of Bay and Yorkville, and brought her to swanky restaurants like Sassafraz on Cumberland, Café Boulud at the Four Seasons and One at the Hazelton Hotel. On a getaway to Montreal they stayed at the Ritz-Carlton. There would be future trips, he promised, to his home in the south of France, and adventures on his yacht, which he said was moored in Monaco. In the fall of 2012, the couple was invited to attend an exclusive reception for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. They were the guests of the Bay Street law firm Wildeboer Dellelce, where Rosenberg was an important client, and they were personally introduced to Edward, Earl of Wessex. Antoinette felt like royalty herself.

After dating for just a few months, they decided to move in together. Rosenberg convinced Antoinette to sell her home and quit her job. He told her that he would invest the profits from that sale as well as some of her retirement savings in his company. Antoinette handed over $155,000—a lot of money for her. He drew up a contract and said he would make her a director of Marwa, which loaned large sums of money at high interest rates. Around this time he was in the process of establishing a permanent office space at Brookfield Place, working with several of the city’s top design firms. He also said he was setting up a trust in Antoinette’s name so that, no matter what happened, she would always be looked after.

They got married in March 2013, scarcely a year after they’d met. Antoinette took Rosenberg’s name. The ring was a family heirloom of such great value that Rosenberg instructed Antoinette to leave it in their safe whenever she went out. The ceremony was held in the condo building’s party room. Afterward, about 20 guests—mostly Antoinette’s friends and family—attended a dinner at Crème ­Brasserie, a French restaurant co-owned by ­Rosenberg’s new friend Ricardo Sousa. Rosenberg left early, saying he didn’t feel well. Antoinette’s uncle had to pick up the sizable tab.

Everything in their shared home was his—on Rosenberg’s insistence, Antoinette had sold or given away most of her belongings. Her furnishings weren’t up to snuff in her new abode. Rosenberg had a taste for luxury brands like ­Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Armani, Gucci. He loved cashmere sweaters, which he would wear tied around his shoulders in country-club fashion. Shopping was a daily pastime and ­Yorkville boutique owners greeted him by name, fawning over him from the moment he walked in. Often, the Rosenbergs would take a post-dinner stroll through the neighbourhood or hop into his Porsche Carrera convertible for a spin. York­villers knew them, and would smile and wave like humble villagers paying respects to their feudal lord.

While Antoinette and Rosenberg were dating, she lost touch with a lot of her old friends. He occupied most of her time and discouraged her from maintaining connections with anyone from her previous life. After the wedding, Rosenberg wanted to know where Antoinette was at all times, whom she was with and what she was doing. He gave her a cellphone and used its GPS capability to track her movements. When she made calls from the house, he would stand in the background, listening. The behaviour was troubling, but Antoinette gave her new spouse the benefit of the doubt. When she tried to discuss her feelings, Rosenberg would accuse her of being unreasonable. She had no direct access to funds and felt trapped.

One summer day, a few months into the marriage, Antoinette was looking at bank records when she noticed something curious. There was another woman’s name attached to the Marwa corporate documents: Mihaela Zavoianu. She appeared to have signing authority on the company bank account, and Antoinette had never even heard of her. When she questioned her husband, he told her it was nothing to be concerned about. Zavoianu was a former associate he was helping out, he explained vaguely, refusing to elaborate. Around the same time, she brought her engagement ring to Birks on Bloor Street for resizing. The Birks clerk was impressed by the bauble until he pulled out his magnifying glass and saw that it was costume jewellery. When Antoinette confronted her husband he calmly explained how, back in his grandmother’s era, it was common to have a second, imitation ring made for travelling. The two must have been mixed up at some point. Like all of Rosenberg’s lies, the story sounded just plausible enough, and Antoinette found it easier to believe him than to consider the alternative.

One late-August evening, the Rosenbergs were out for a walk. She wanted to talk about their marital issues. She hoped they could find a way to improve things, but rather than understanding, Rosenberg reacted to her words with anger, grabbing her arm in a way that was violent enough to leave bruises. The next day, Antoinette was on Skype with her daughter. As was often the case, Rosenberg lingered in the background. To avoid detection, Antoinette carried on a mundane, how-was-your-day type of conversation, while her daughter held up written notes on screen. She was concerned about her mother’s isolation. She felt her mother wasn’t safe, and encouraged her to go to the police. Soon after, ­Antoinette met with detectives at 53 Division, and told them about her husband’s physical and emotional abuse. She also said she had suspicions about whether everything he’d told her about his finances was true.

The Yorkville Swindler Rosenberg has been jailed more than a dozen times. He’s currently serving a five-year sentence at the Beaver Creek Medium Security Institution in Gravenhurst
 

Albert Allan Rosenberg claims he doesn’t have a birth certificate. He says this is because he was born in Egypt during the Second World War, which might be the case or it might not. Either way, it’s a perfectly poetic detail for a man who has spent most of his life concealing his identity. Rosenberg will often change the details of his history, but his standard version is this: he was born in Cairo while his father, Alvin, a Canadian international lawyer, was stationed there in the early ’40s doing work for the UN. His mother, Marcelle, was born in France and grew up in Switzerland, where she met Alvin. The family of three left Cairo and returned to Switzerland before Albert was a year old, and he was raised in a small lakeside town called Küsnacht. He describes his upbringing as one of privilege and ­distinction—all of the best toys, clothing and schools.

By the mid-’60s, the Rosenberg family had relocated to Canada. His mother opened La Belle Boutique in Yorkville. “It was among the first Canadian shops to carry the major European designers,” he will explain, pronouncing Chanel, Ferragamo, Vuitton and Versace with a European inflection. The ­Rosenbergs lived in a house on Dunvegan in Forest Hill. As an adult, Albert Rosenberg moved to 78 Hazelton Avenue. (He says he still owns that home, though real estate records show it belongs to the investment banker Georges Benarroch, who says Rosenberg rented the house in the early ’90s.)

Rosenberg also claims he studied computer science at the University of Toronto and later got an MBA from Harvard, but U of T didn’t have an undergraduate computer science program until the ’70s, and Harvard has no record of him ever attending. At some point in the early ’70s, he returned to Switzerland, which is where he met and married Karin ­Wander (she is, according to the police, the actual descendant of the Ovaltine Wander family). Together they had three daughters, Marie Claire, Sabine and Penelope. While living in Zurich, Rosenberg says, he founded his medical software company. He also says this is when he established a public trust with his wife and his wife’s wealthy family. On other occasions he will say the trust is over a hundred years old. Conflicting details come up often in Rosenberg’s stories, which tend to mix some facts in with dramatic embellishments or blatant lies. In 1986, the Globe and Mail ran a profile of Marcelle, whose boutique was a favourite shopping destination for the city’s Glitter Girls. It noted that her husband was a jeweller in Cairo, not a ­Canadian lawyer. She was quoted as saying she and her family moved out of Egypt following the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952. They went to France, then ­Montreal. In 1966, she met her second husband, Sam Kaye, and settled in Toronto. Marcelle’s account of her personal history makes no mention of any time in ­Switzerland. (­Rosenberg says the paper must have made an error.)

Albert and Karin Rosenberg moved to Toronto in 1981 and registered a company called ­Command and Control Systems. In 1987, it was dissolved by the federal government for failure to file documentation. They also opened a gallery called ­Rosenberg Fine Arts at the corner of ­Hazelton and Yorkville, specializing in investment art. They accepted valuable paintings from international galleries on consignment, but then used the proceeds of sales—at least seven works by Adolph Gotlieb, Mark Rothko and others—to buy antiques and pay for car leases and racquet club memberships, instead of dispatching payments to the original galleries. It didn’t last. By 1984, the gallery had declared bankruptcy. In the summer of 1986, one of the swindled owners contacted the RCMP. Shortly afterward, both Albert and Karin Rosenberg were charged with fraud totalling over $300,000. She fled to Europe with their daughters, while he was arrested and then released on $2,000 bail.

Awaiting trial, Rosenberg struck up a relationship with a woman named Lorraine Monk, a highly respected and recently widowed photographer. When they met, she was raising funds to establish the Canadian Museum of Photography. Rosenberg said that he could help her raise money by acquiring Picasso’s Buste de Femme, which was on the market. They would sell it for a sizable profit—all he needed from her was $100,000 (his funds, as usual, were tied up overseas). A week after writing a cheque, Monk learned that Rosenberg was bankrupt and that he was facing fraud charges—the fraudulent art sales, plus a second scam in which he had doctored a stock certificate to make it look like a $1,000,000 certificate, then tried to use it as security to obtain a $500,000 loan from a now-defunct Toronto firm called Quabbin Hill Investments. At Rosenberg’s fraud trial, Monk said she was so distraught that she considered taking her own life. The prosecutor described Rosenberg as a man who “played fast and loose with the truth,” taking note of his “shocking lack of conscience.” Rosenberg was represented by the defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, who referred to his client’s crime as an “act of desperation.” Rosenberg, he claimed, was under the mistaken impression that he could put everything back together again. He received a four-year sentence—his first of many prison terms.

By 1991 he was out on parole and up to his usual tricks, this time in Halifax, posing as a Swiss doctor and entrepreneur. He was convicted again that same year, sentenced to three years and then paroled again in 1994. Five months later, he was busted yet again on fraud charges and sentenced to two years.

He returned to Toronto when he got out and started a relationship with a woman named Birgitta Baldes. They met while he was shopping at William Ashley in the Manulife Centre. Baldes was a blonde bombshell who had the purring accent and over-the-top fashion sense of a Gabor sister. In the summer of 1998, they flew to Switzerland (violating the terms of Rosenberg’s parole). They rented a blue Porsche Boxster and a deluxe edition VW Golf, and relocated to Aix-en-Provence, where Rosenberg posed as a Swiss-American tycoon (his latest persona). The couple dressed in flashy clothing: he favoured black leather pants and a long yellow scarf, she jewels and fur. He told people that he was in the small French town because the area was ripe for a buying spree. Local business owners, according to ­Rosenberg, were too stupid to realize the profit potential of their businesses. He told friends of his plans to buy the most expensive property in the region, a large villa, for 26 million francs or $5.6 million (Cdn.). While he waited for the deal to go through, he was buying up other local businesses, including a bowling alley. To a friend, he described it as “taking candy from a baby.” Rosenberg is not a modest man—and one tends to have a lot more to brag about when truth is ­immaterial. He claimed he was a licensed pilot with his own private plane, a champion tennis player ranked 14th in the world for his age group and an accomplished academic working on a doctorate in psychology through the University of Zurich.

Nick Steed is a Canadian journalist who happened to live in Aix-en-Provence when Rosenberg and Baldes came to town. He and his partner, Karen O’Reilly, became friends with the exotic couple. Steed says they were so entertaining that he overlooked certain red flags. In a piece he wrote for the National Post in December 1999, Steed described Rosenberg as a “bit of a queer fish, but fun to be with, even magnetic, his often crude boasting tinged with a mischievous sense of humour.” Steed recalls a day when he and O’Reilly were invited to play tennis with Rosenberg at a posh country club. When they got there, the receptionist had no record of a member named Albert ­Rosenberg. Moments later, Rosenberg arrived and took his place on the court with the kind of bold self-assuredness that discourages questions. A few weeks later, Steed and O’Reilly visited ­Rosenberg and Baldes at their rental property—an opulent estate with Greek statues, a shimmering pool and panoramic views. Rosenberg was eager to show off his art collection, which included large canvases by Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko. “The somber power of the two works left no doubt in my mind that they were the real thing,” Steed wrote in the Post. Still, there was reason for skepticism. At one point he asked Rosenberg whether, given that he owned a Bacon, he might also own a Freud, referring to Lucian Freud. Rosenberg was confused. “What do you mean—­Sigmund?” he asked, betraying ignorance that would be inexcusable in an undergrad art student, never mind a worldly collector. Like the pricy real estate, art was a way for Rosenberg to establish credibility—a prop in his elaborate masquerade.

Later it would come out that he had purchased the paintings from the prestigious Marlborough Gallery in New York. He’d sent the gallery photos of his property in Aix-en-Provence, explaining that he needed art to decorate it. He wrote them a post-dated cheque for $4.3 million, as he would need time to get the funds released from his trust in Liechtenstein. The gallery agreed and shipped the paintings immediately, without any form of collateral. According to the French authorities, Rosenberg then tried to sell the paintings to Christie’s auction house in London. They weren’t interested, perhaps because he didn’t have proper ownership documents. Next he approached Sotheby’s, which did buy the works, giving Rosenberg a $700,000 deposit. At this point he had moved from Aix-en-Provence, leaving a slew of swindled local business owners and bounced cheques in his wake. A private detective hired by the ­Marlborough Gallery tracked ­Rosenberg and Baldes first to Paris and then to Florence where, in ­October 1999, he was busy establishing his latest identity as a wealthy buyer of antiques.

Rosenberg and Baldes were arrested in Italy at the request of the French police. The charge was passing “cheques en bois” (wooden cheques). They were released on a technicality (the French paperwork was late) and returned to France, where they were re-arrested in Cannes in 2000 (­Rosenberg was driving a Ferrari at the time and posing as a lawyer–doctor–film producer). Baldes was acquitted of her charges. Rosenberg was convicted of fraud, but he was soon back in Canada and jailed for parole violations. Over the next decade, he was in and out of jail several more times. Each time he’d get out, he would infiltrate a new circle, earn trust, steal money and eventually get busted again.

In 2009 he met a Toronto woman named Mihaela Zavoianu. It was Zavoianu’s name Antoinette discovered attached to the Marwa documents. Like Antoinette, Zavoianu met Rosenberg online. She moved into his Minto penthouse and signed over $80,000—her life savings—to the man she planned to marry. In 2010, the relationship was put on pause when Rosenberg went to prison. He told Zavoianu it was about unpaid back taxes (in fact it was for yet another parole violation). When he got out, the romance continued. He promised he was going to buy a house for her elderly parents. But in the winter of 2012, ­Rosenberg told Zavoianu she would have to move out for a while. His daughter, he explained, was severely depressed and coming to live with him. In fact, he had just met Antoinette.

In 2011, Rosenberg self-published a book titled Taking Stock in Your Future. The police believe it’s largely ­plagiarized—many sections appear to be lifted from Outperforming the Market, by the Canadian business writer Larry MacDonald. Rosenberg would take his book with him to appointments and social engagements to impress his marks. He could often be found dining on the patios of Yorkville cafés with it placed conspicuously on his table, his Louis ­Vuitton cellphone case close by. In January 2013, he hosted a book signing event at Indigo. The ability to feign financial expertise was essential to convincing investors to sign over tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One such investor, who agreed to speak to me on the condition of anonymity, is a Toronto businessman in his mid-50s I’ll call James. He met Rosenberg through a friend in December 2012. Introductions through a respectable, trustworthy third party are among the most established moves in the swindler’s playbook. If Rosenberg met a successful businessman, he would ask to be introduced to his lawyer; if he met that lawyer, he’d ask for an introduction to his most successful client, and so on. His relationship with James began as a friendship—at least that’s what James thought—and of course there was something exciting about palling around with European nobility. Twice he visited Rosenberg at his penthouse. “He would open a bottle of wine and we would have long discussions—he would do most of the talking,” James recalls. “He would talk about Switzerland and his estate and a lot about the art world.” Rosenberg had a way of making the people in his orbit feel special, smart, important. “He had the bearing of a cultured individual; I never really questioned it,” says James, who dined with Rosenberg at Café Boulud. (Several people told me ­Rosenberg had a habit of ordering pricy food and drink, and then somehow getting whomever he was with to pick up the tab, though James says Rosenberg paid for him twice.) It wasn’t until the third time they got together that Rosenberg mentioned the possibility of an investment. It came up in a casual way, as if it had just occurred to him that he might be able to help this new friend make a quick buck. “He told me, because I like you I’m going to let you in and make you 30 per cent in a couple of months.” In late January, James wrote a personal cheque for $300,000. He didn’t get a receipt because he figured his new friend had the capital to make good on his promise. He never told his business partners about the investment and spent months chasing Rosenberg for repayment.

Rosenberg got another $50,000 from Ricardo Sousa, the Crème Brasserie restaurateur, who would have cases of sparkling water delivered to the Minto penthouse as a personal favour. He got $100,000 from Vincent Zaffino, a Toronto accountant. These (as well as Antoinette and Mihaela Zavoianu) are the only duped investors who agreed to lay charges, though they certainly aren’t the only wealthy professionals who fell for Rosenberg’s act. According to the Toronto fraud squad cops who worked the case, several prominent lawyers and business professionals were also duped by him.

In one scam, described to me by a financial professional who came across Rosenberg in the late aughties, he would approach a company that was seeking a significant financial loan and, posing as a billionaire investment banker, pretend he was in a position to make it. Once he told a production company that he would consider their request for a $20-million loan, but first he would need to do his due diligence. Just a formality, he would explain, but one that required a five per cent fee. Rosenberg then went back to the company explaining that they had not met his requirements. And then he—along with his fee—was gone.

Rosenberg’s lifestyle relied on his ability to come into quick and substantial windfalls, but his desire to infiltrate the city’s toniest circles was about power and influence. In 2012, he told friends he was interested in purchasing RIM, which was, at the time, in desperate financial straits and seeking new owner­ship. He said he could easily scoop up the struggling ­Canadian company for $5 billion. Rosenberg had lunch with RIM’s VP of investor relations. Of course he didn’t have that kind of money or anything close to it. “I think he just wanted to see how far up he could get,” says a Rosenberg acquaintance. According to the police, one of the charter banks came close to investing $20 million in Marwa.

Rosenberg told people he was opening offices for Marwa on the 46th floor of Brookfield Place. He hired the high-end King East furniture store Ital­interiors to provide $200,000 in custom-made office furniture, plus $140,000 for two custom-made glazed partitions. As the project progressed, none of the trade or design firms had received any sort of payment. Anna Trevisan, the co-owner of ­Italinteriors, was invited to a meeting with the project’s architects, the global firm HOK, and general contractors Govan Brown, plus Rosenberg and his accountant, who explained that the Brookfield lease had fallen through and so the project was on hold until another suitable space could be found. Rosenberg suggested that his plan now was to purchase an entire building. “We definitely got a weird vibe,” says Trevisan. Rosenberg handed out business cards that looked like they’d been printed on a home computer. “He said he was going to get back to us,” she says. “The next thing I heard, he was arrested.”

After Antoinette went to the police, Rosenberg’s stories started to unravel. While he spent the night in a holding cell, she went through all of their personal financial records. She printed out bank statements and contact information and anything else she could find, and handed it all to the police, who called in fraud officers Roxanne Doyle and Valerie Dahan to investigate. The victims they interviewed—many of them educated, high-earning men—would dissolve into tears while telling their stories. They were devastated and furious, and still they would refer to the man who stole their savings as Mr. Rosenberg. The cops had a different name for him: Baron von Bullshit. They charged him with domestic assault and eight counts of fraud, totalling $1.2 million. Rosenberg pleaded guilty to all charges.

At a sentencing hearing in October 2013, Antoinette delivered a victim impact statement, describing her stress and shame. Rosenberg had left her tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and she owed $30,000 in unpaid rent to the Minto (he had put her name on the lease). He also charged significant amounts to her Visa and maxed out her line of credit. Shortly after his arrest, Antoinette moved in with her daughter because she didn’t have enough money to rent even a modest apartment.

Michael Callaghan was the Crown prosecutor assigned to the case. He spoke of Rosenberg’s “Machiavellian chutzpah” and his arrest record stretching back to the late ’80s. “Mr. ­Rosenberg is simply incapable of living within the norms of society.” ­Rosenberg was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Last September, I visited Rosenberg at the Beaver Creek Medium Security Institution in Gravenhurst. The police on the fraud squad warned me that he would be ­charming—we even joked that I had better not return from Muskoka with a new boyfriend.

After passing a security check, I entered the visiting area and immediately spotted him waiting behind a glass door. He wore aviator shades and stood a commanding six-foot-­something, dressed in prison-issue jeans and a long-sleeved blue work shirt. From a distance he looked menacing, like a Bond villain. The visiting room was large and mostly concrete, with all the furniture bolted to the floor. There were a couple of vending machines and a station to make instant coffee. I prepared two cups while I waited for Rosenberg to be buzzed in. Close up and without his sunglasses, his small, dark eyes were more desperate than steely. Unkempt tufts of grey hair grew out of his unusually pointy ears. Rosenberg was ­soft-spoken and, at least on the surface, genteel. When I went to the washroom, he stood up and waited for me to return. When I shivered, he suggested we move outside. It was an early fall day that still felt like summer. We sat at a picnic table, which could have been anywhere in cottage country were it not for the security fences and control points.

Beaver Creek seems like a tolerable place to do time. Inmates live nine to a dormitory, most in individual rooms that share a large common area. Every day Rosenberg gets up at 5:30, which is almost two hours earlier than most. It is, he explains, “force of habit after years as a successful businessman.” Every inmate does some form of work—in the morning, Rosenberg tutors inmates who are working toward their high school diplomas. Afternoon time is discretionary. Rosenberg mostly visits the library, where the book selection is, he says, “actually not that bad.” Dinner is early—around 4 p.m. Inmates make their own grocery lists and cook their own meals. Some of them do so in groups, but Rosenberg keeps to himself, cooking up basic but satisfying dishes. A favourite is stewed beef and vegetables—his recipe, he says, is based on beef bourguignon, without the red wine, which is contraband. He was able to hold on to some of the accessories of his former self—a Vuitton belt, a Cartier watch. When I ask him if he has met any kindred spirits in prison, he says he has not. To keep his brain fit, he reads up on the great minds of the past. Recently he’d been studying Kierkegaard. Was I familiar with his philosophy? he asked, promising to mail me an excerpt from the book he was reading.

For much of our first visit, we talked about his childhood. A good chunk of his story didn’t line up with information I had found while doing my research. Sometimes it didn’t even match up with itself. “What year were you born?” I asked at the beginning of our chat. “Nineteen-forty-two,” he responded. “How old are you?” I asked about an hour later. He answered 69.

Lies are Rosenberg’s default response, which makes it almost impossible to know anything about him with certainty. At the Toronto Reference Library, I found a story in the Toronto Daily Star about a young man named Albert Rosenberg from ­Dundas West who won a prestigious student award. The accompanying image was fuzzy, but I recognized what looked to me to be those same pointy ears. The article was printed in 1946, which would put ­Rosenberg well into his 80s. Is this you? I asked him, holding out the photocopied newspaper. He said it was, adding yet another small addendum to his origin story: his parents moved back and forth between Europe and Toronto while he was in high school.

I was reminded of one of my own high school friends, who had a similar habit of lying with no apparent motive. One day she told me her pet bird had died. Just a few days later I was at her house, and there was the bird, tweeting happily in its cage. I didn’t call her on it. I thought it was because I didn’t want to hear yet another story justifying the original deception. That was part of it, but talking to Rosenberg, I realized that the best liars box you in with your own discomfort. Many of Rosenberg’s victims say they knew something was off, there were signs, but what are you going to do—tell a friend that her budgie has risen from the dead? Ask a man how he can be 69, 72 and 80-something at the same time?

I pressed Rosenberg on the details of his crimes—but for every accusation there was an explanation. It was all a mis­understanding, he said. He had always intended to pay his investors back and still plans to make restitutions as soon as he is “liberated.” There was much talk of the trust, which Rosenberg says is still very much in existence and worth millions. The police say it is entirely fabricated, as real as the summer home in the south of France or that yacht moored in Monaco.

Rosenberg will be up for parole in a couple of years. He says he plans to rebuild his life and that he won’t be making any attempts to defraud anyone. “It has to stop. I keep winding up here,” he says. He intends to sue Antoinette for the things she took from their apartment after he was arrested. His list includes $50,000 in monogrammed silverware, a $10,000 wallet and a $7,000 coffee cream set. He gave me the name of the lawyer who is representing him—Jordan Glick of Weir Foulds. When I reached Glick, he confirmed that he had been contacted by Rosenberg but that he hadn’t yet been retained by him. Rosenberg also says he wants to return to Switzerland to see his daughters. Yes, there will be restrictions regarding his travel, but nothing he can’t argue in court. “I can be pretty persuasive,” he says.

During my last visit to Beaver Creek, Rosenberg asked if I had received the Kierkegaard text he’d sent me. I had, though what he called an excerpt was more of a grade school Wikipedia-style overview. All the same, it was telling, particularly in light of my companion. Truth, Kierkegaard argued, is subjective.