In reality, the suspect was a 57-year-old from Trieste, but he assumed the identity of a Montenegrin prince – despite the fact Montenegro has not been a monarchy since the end of the First World War.
The disguises allowed the 'prince' not only to blag travel freebies, but to arrange meetings with leading businessmen and religious authorities, police said.
A search of his Turin home revealed fake diplomatic passes and documents, including the knighthoods and other honours he bestowed on many of those he met.
Even actress and animal rights campaigner Pamela Anderson fell for the fraud, and was named 'Imperial Countess' by the fake prince in June 2015.
— Gossip Italia (@gossip_italia) September 9, 2015
The moment Pamela Anderson became an 'Imperial Countess'.
These figures were attracted by the prince's “granting of knighthoods and diplomatic passports (always false) and alleged economic cultural exchanges with Montenegro,” police said in a statement quoted in the Brindisi Report.
Prosecutors labelled the fraud a “pantomime”, but it was nothing if not thorough: the man reportedly hired an accomplice to act as his valet, and travelled in a Mercedes with diplomatic registration plates.
Police began the probe in August 2016 after the suspect was spotted in Puglia with a car bearing the insignia of the Republic of Montenegro. On that trip, he was able to enjoy a two-week stay in a luxury resort and had meetings with high profile figures from the worlds of business and politics.
Both the 'prince' and his valet were on Wednesday charged for false declaration of identity, and possession and manufacture of forged identity documents, Repubblica reported.