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Thursday
Feb032011

Alleged Grifter Using Guggenheim Family Name Surrenders

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- A woman who prosecutors say was a grifter impersonating a European countess working on behalf of the wealthy Guggenheim family to sell $1 billion worth of diamonds has turned herself in to federal authorities in California after her accused accomplices were arraigned in New York.

Catarina Pietra Toumei, who had been on the lam since Monday, is accused of trying to defraud investors.  She and her two accomplices, who pretended to be heirs to the Guggenheim fortune, tried -- and failed -- to lure potential investors to buy diamonds from the "private collection of the Guggenheim family," invest in a "Guggenheim Vodka" venture, and invest in a $4 billion deal involving the sale of oil to a Chinese refinery, according to court documents.

Toumei claimed to be a European aristocrat married to John Ratzenberger, the actor who played the beer-swilling mailman Cliff Clavin on Cheers, according to prosecutors.

She turned herself in to the federal court in San Diego Wednesday evening.  Bond was set at $200,000, according to ABC News affiliate KGTV in San Diego.  Because of the late hour and because Toumei turned herself in, the judge released her provided she come back Thursday to pay the bond, KGTV reported.

The FBI arrested the men, David Birnbaum and Vladimir Zuravel, in New York Monday, and the three suspects will be tried in New York.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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