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Prince of Fraud Pleads No Contest After a Merry Run

October 24, 1991|MATHIS CHAZANOV

Anthony Gignac, known to his victims as Prince Omar Al-Saud and Prince Khalil Bin Al-Saud, and finally as "Prince Fraud," was a young crook, but a good one.

Posing as a member of Saudi royalty, the 21-year-old Michigan man stiffed the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel for $3,488 in room and food charges during a four-day binge in July.

He racked up $7,500 in limousine bills, burning up the freeways from Torrance to Malibu on excursions that lasted until dawn.

And he talked Rodeo Drive shopkeepers out of a set of Louis Vuitton luggage and a rare coin collection, only to leave the hotel in handcuffs despite repeated promises that his father, the prince, would make good his debts.

Offered a plea bargain at a preliminary hearing, Gignac chose to go on trial instead, charged with four counts of grand theft, one of credit-card abuse and one of check forgery.

But after sitting through the testimony of 17 prosecution witnesses, he pleaded no contest to all charges Wednesday.

"He's a heck of a con man--he's excellent," said Armando Henriques, manager of Music Express, one of two limousine services that provided Gignac with cars and drivers for five days and nights.

Henriques said he was suspicious at first but went along after dining with the bogus prince at the hotel, where staff members welcomed Gignac as "Your Highness."

Georgiana Francisco, a spokeswoman for the Beverly Wilshire, said that Saudi dignitaries often stay at the luxury establishment, and that the phone call seeking a reservation in the name of Prince Khalil was hardly extraordinary.

"It's not necessarily something that would raise our levels of consciousness and say, 'Whoops, this could be a fraud,' because we're used to this," she said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Randi Kaplan said Gignac faces a sentence ranging from probation to five years in prison. "I do not think this is a case that's suitable for probation," she said.

Deputy Public Defender Carol Clem, representing Gignac, declined to comment. Sentencing was set for Nov. 4. in Santa Monica Superior Court.

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