A San Francisco man accused of bilking a Marin couple out of $1.6 million by claiming to be the son of Congo president Joseph Kabila alleged Tuesday that he has been under a nearly 24-hour lockdown at the Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland since he was taken into custody on April 25.
Blessed Marvelous Herve, 41, appeared in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Tuesday morning for a hearing before Judge Nathaniel Cousins on whether or not he should be kept in custody as his case makes its way through the courts. Attorney Edward Hu of the Public Defender's Office told Cousins that Herve had only been allowed out of his cell for 15 minutes per day since he arrived at the jail. Hu said he did not know why, and Cousins instructed the U.S. Marshals Service to look into the matter.
Neither spokespeople for U.S. Marshals of the Glenn Dyer Jail could not be reached for comment, and Hu declined to elaborate on the allegation late Tuesday. Herve is set to return to court May 8 for a detention hearing.
Herve faces one count of wire fraud, a charge that carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if Herve is convicted.
In a federal criminal complaint, he is accused of an elaborate take on the infamous online scams involving phony Nigerian princes who claim to need money transferred to them in order to free up a much larger sum of money to be shared.
In this case, Herve allegedly told a Marin real estate agent, who focused on the luxury homes market, and his girlfriend that he was the son of Congo president Joseph Kabila and that he needed their help recovering millions seized from his father by the United States so he could buy luxury homes.
Kabila and Herve are both 41 years old.
An affidavit filed with the complaint by FBI Agent Brian Weber said Herve was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was granted asylum in the United States in 1999 and became a U.S. citizen in March.
Weber alleged in the affidavit that Herve scammed the couple, identified only by their respective initials ("BE" and "KW") in the complaint, out of $1.6 million by telling them a series of stories.
Herve allegedly at first told the agent that his father was the president of the Congo and wanted to buy several multimillion-dollar homes in the Bay Area.
Later, he said he needed help in recovering $43 million the U.S. government had supposedly seized from him. He promised the agent more than $1.5 million in bonuses, and also promised to buy the multi-million dollars homes through the agent, thereby rewarding him with large commissions, according to the affidavit.
Prior to seeking any money from the agent and his girlfriend, Herve produced a number of documents to bolster his credibility, including "a complimentary letter from a U.S. Senator" and a certificate of recognition from a member of U.S. Congress, according to the affidavit. He also toured a $40 million home in Atherton with the agent, according to the affidavit.
Weber said the real estate agent gave Herve $635,000 until he became financially broke in 2009. At that point, the agent's girlfriend starting supplying money through bank wire transfers until she had given a total of $970,000 and also became broke in 2012, the affidavit said.
In 2008, the affidavit said, Herve told the real estate agent he was in trial in a federal court case in San Francisco to recover his money.
But he told the agent he couldn't watch the court hearings because they were being held in secret under the authority of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Weber wrote that Herve told the real estate agent he lived in the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco and that the agent regularly met him in the hotel lobby to give him rides to the federal courthouse in 2008. But the agent never saw his rooms and the hotel has no record of Herve living there that year, Weber said in the affidavit.
From 2009 to 2012, Herve told the agent and his girlfriend he was in federal custody in connection with the alleged court case and communicated with them only by phone, promising that he would get his funds as soon as he was freed.
The FBI agent wrote that the investigation of the case indicates Herve is not the son of a Congolese president, had "no intent or means" to repay his victims, had no court case concerning the alleged seizure of $43 million and was not in federal prison from 2009 to 2012.
–Bay City News Service contributed to this report. Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. – Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.