If you want to rub shoulders with the Pope, hobnob with high-powered diplomats and make a Baywatch star a countess, then there’s only one thing to do, pretend you are a prince of a Balkan country, writes Conall Ó Fátharta.
That’s what Stefan Cernetic has been doing for years and he’s only just been found out.
Cernetic, 56, repeatedly claimed to have been part of the monarchy of Montenegro and Macedonia and used this in order to meet celebrities, diplomats, and wealthy businessmen all over the world.
On his personal website, Cernetic went so far as to boast that he was directly descended from the Roman emperor Constantine.
However, far from descending from royalty, he was unmasked as an Italian who was born near Slovenian border and lives in the Italian city of Turin.
Police have now launched a fraud probe amid claims that he is merely a conman fantasist.
The investigation was started after a Turin hotel owner made a complaint that he had stayed there for a week without paying, instructed the hotel to bill the Macedonian Embassy. However, officials at the embassy had never heard of Cernetic. Detectives investigating the case subsequently discovered a trove of fake passports, medallions, and diplomatic passports.
‘We’ve seen some strange things, but nothing like this, one officer told the Daily Telegraph.
Cernetic also hosts his own website which features photographs of him with celebrities including Pamela Anderson and tennis player Novak Djokovic.
In a bizarre event, former Baywatch star Ms Anderson was conferred with the title of countess by Cernetic in a ceremony which involved her kneeling before the so-called prince and referring to him as your highness.
Ms Anderson marked the occasion on her own website with the entry: On Monday, October 20th, 2014 Pamela Anderson was awarded The Dame of Grand Cross of the most prestigious knighthood title of Constantine Order of Saint George by Prince Cernetic, the hereditary Prince of Montenegro for her courageous contribution to the protection of marine life and the conservation of wildlife.
She later told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that the prince is a big animal fan but admitted that she found the whole ceremony very bizarre.
The mayor of Monopoli in Italy, Emilio Romani, was also taken in by Cernetic and went so far as to host him last summer. He said he was not the only one to be fooled.
I console myself with the knowledge that I was not the only one, given that this character also met mayors throughout Europe as well as showbusiness personalities, he said.