"We were talking about marriage," says Follieri, in an interview that took place in his native Rome. "I was very much in love with her."
But his arrest in 2008 brought an abrupt end to their four-year relationship, and the dashing Italian businessman pleaded guilty to 14 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
Asadorian-Mejia / Splash News Online
When he first entered prison, "I thought my life was over," he says. "But I learned to survive by focusing on getting through one day at a time."
As for his fall from grace, "I'm not a saint," he says. "But I'm not the devil."
For more from the exclusive interview with Follieri – including details of his relationship with Anne Hathaway – look for the story in an upcoming issue of PEOPLE