Having a patron skip out on a $4,200-plus dinner tab isnt usually the stuff to make restaurant owners smile. However being one of the latest victims of alleged international con-man Christopher Rocancourt isnt all bad, according to Bear Foot Bistro founder, Andre Saint-Jacques.
Since the RCMPs arrest of Rocancourt and his common law wife in Oak Bay on Vancouver Island on April 26, any Whistler business that had dealings with the international fugitive during his four-six week stay here has been under the global media spotlight. After all, Rocancourt is wanted on four continents for allegedly swindling people out of millions of dollars. He now faces charges in provincial court in Vancouver for fraud, physical and sexual assault. An extradition request is also pending from New York State, where he is wanted on outstanding charges of grand larceny. Another extradition request is expected from Los Angeles police.
A true chameleon among men, 33-year-old Rocancourt has managed to change names, occupation and residencies more frequently than Whistler has had snow this season. Against the backdrop of New Yorks ritzy playpen in the Hamptons last summer, the former orphanage boy from France managed to pass himself off as a member of the Rockefeller family, convincing some less savvy Hamptonites to hand over thousands of dollars to invest in phoney businesses. He has also passed himself off as a Russian prince friend to the rich and famous. Place him against Whistlers stunning mountain landscape this past March and April, and he looked just like another tourist with investments on his mind at least until some of his stories stop adding up.
Pat Kelly, president of the Whistler Real Estate Company, met Rocancourt on only one occasion but says something wasnt quite right. Rocancourt was allegedly going by the name Michael VanHoven and pretending to be a professional driver for Ferrari at the time.
"He certainly had the lifestyle of someone who could afford to look at million-dollar-plus houses and was very personable, glib and charming," Kelly recalls. "However people with a lot of money have a certain level of sophistication that he lacked in both clothes, speech and appearance, plus he was a little too outrageous all around."
But what about the growing number of dot.com millionaires out there, couldnt he fit that mould?
"That type of property buyer carries pagers and laptops and they generally dont have time to hang around a real estate office drinking champagne and flirting with all the female staff," Kelly says.
Rocancourt spent many hours with Kellys fellow realtor Don Wensley looking at local top-end homes before finally putting an offer on the $10 million Chateau du Lac property at Nita Lake. However Kelly says the deal suffered "contract interruptus" when the funding didnt come through.