Since Anne Hathaway
began dating Raffaello Follieri in 2004, The Devil Wears Prada
star and the dashing Italian real estate developer have often seemed to be starring in their own version of a big-budget Hollywood romance: yachting in St. Bart's, clubbing in Saint-Tropez and, when they aren't dining in some of Manhattan's finest restaurants, playing house in his palatial Fifth Avenue apartment, where Follieri cooks homemade pasta and she dotes on their Labrador retriever Esmeralda. "They are such a good match," a friend says of the couple. "She loves passionate people who are caring. He is also very calming. Whenever there is stress, he's good at being soothing."
These days he may have a lot of soothing to do. On April 3, Follieri, 29, who moved to New York in '03 to launch a business buying and redeveloping property owned by the Roman Catholic Church, turned himself in to police after bouncing a $215,000 check written to a New Jersey real estate executive. Charged with a misdemeanor, Follieri is scheduled to appear in court on May 12.
While a spokeswoman for Follieri called the episode "an unfortunate incident that got out of hand," it is not the young entrepreneur's first brush with the legal system. In early '07, California supermarket magnate Ron Burkle sued Follieri, claiming that he used funds that Burkle's firm had invested in his company to subsidize a lavish lifestyle. Among the alleged splurges: private jet travel, $40,000-a-month rent on an eight-bedroom apartment, shopping sprees at Prada and dog care for Esmeralda.
Follieri—who in 2002 had passed a number of bad checks in Italy—has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the Burkle affair. "Anne is wealthy, and he is wealthy in his own right," a friend says of Follieri, who is in the process of settling with Burkle. "He doesn't need to scam people to pay for a lavish lifestyle." Others aren't so sure. Although Follieri's family has been in Italian real estate—and has been close to the Vatican—for many years, how much money he made redeveloping U.S. church property is unclear. "This guy may have been on his way to becoming a multimillionaire," says a source close to the lawsuit. "[But] he didn't want to wait. He wanted to live high on the hog now."
However it was paid for, Follieri clearly enjoyed living la dolce vita with Hathaway, 25. "Before I met him, I wasted so much time," the actress told London's Sunday Times. They became regulars on the social circuit, even hobnobbing with Bill Clinton, who thanked Follieri for his charitable pledge at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting. Follieri even boasted that he was going to help deliver the Catholic vote to Hillary Clinton. Since Follieri's dispute with Burkle, a longtime Clinton supporter, the former President's camp has cut ties. A source says, "With a credit card with a high limit, some charm and an overplayed Italian accent, it turns out you can fool a lot of people."
Is Hathaway one of them? Sources say the couple are very much in love. "[We] worship each other," the actress told Newsweek last year. And friends don't expect her to forsake him over the latest crisis. "I do think she'll stick with him," says one pal. "She really loves him, but it's going to be hard. Sometimes it's hard to believe him. Your faith gets shaken."
- With reporting by Sharon Cotliar/New York City,
- Kathy Ehrich Dowd/New York City,
- Hitha Prabhakar/New York City,
- Alyssa Shelasky/New York City.