Screen Icon Gina Lollobrigida, 92, Allegedly Defrauded of Millions by Her 32-Year-Old Manager

Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida on the set of La Legge (The Law) directed by American Jules Dassin and based on the novel by French Roger Vailland.

Photo: les Films Corona/Roger Corbeau/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

What’s shocking about the swindle of 92-year old screen legend Gina Lollobrigida by her 32-year old ex-chauffeur is that it’s not even surprising or all that shocking.

She was conned out of millions and three houses by her ex-chauffeur who became her manager. He raided her fortune to buy Ferraris and motorcycles after he gained control of her estate, reported The Daily Mail this week.

Conning and swindling the elderly is practically an industry. Estate crimes, defined as the unauthorized, unlawful taking of someone’s assets while they’re alive, are rising as boomers age and the incidence of dementia rises.

The American Bar Association has called this form of elder abuse “the crime of the 21st century.”

In Canada, financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse, with 62.5 per cent of cases being money-related, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The government of Canada defines financial abuse as “the illegal or unauthorized use of someone else’s money or property. It includes pressuring someone for money or property.”

Italian prosecutors are accusing Andrea Piazolla of isolating Lollobrigida to empty her bank accounts, according to Italian media.

But the actress has insisted that Piazzolla has been working in her best interests. She denied that he was defrauding her when similar accusations were made by her estranged son, known as Milko, earlier this year.

Gina Lollobrigida and Andrea Piazzolla attend 'Domenica In' TV show at the Studio RAI Fabrizio Frizzi in Rome, Italy, on October 7, 2018.
Gina Lollobrigida and Andrea Piazzolla attend ‘Domenica In’ TV show at the Studio RAI Fabrizio Frizzi in Rome, Italy, on October 7, 2018. (Photo: Mauro Fagiani/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Piazolla started out as Lollobrigida’s driver at the age of 24, became her personal assistant and then her manager.

“Over the years there has been much speculation about the nature of the pair’s relationship as they are often pictured at award’s ceremonies arm-in-arm,” suggested The Daily Mail.

Arm candy, Alzheimer’s, wealth, estranged families, greed: All ingredients of an old, sad story that strips older people of their financial security and often isolates them.

A few celebrity examples:

  • Mickey Rooney, at the age of 90, sued his stepson and others on allegations that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work, reported AP.

“While Chris instilled fear in Mickey and kept him in poverty, Chris took advantage of his unfettered access to Mickey’s income,” according to the filing. Rooney died in 2014 at the age of 93.

  • Liliane Bettencourt, the French heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune worth $39.5 billion and the richest woman in the world, gave $1.4 billion to a society photographer, François-Marie Banier, 25 years younger. Her daughter’s lawsuit charged Bettencourt had been tricked by Banier, who received cash, annuities, fine art and an island in the Seychelles.

The complaint challenged her mother’s competency and led to criminal charges against the man, who was portrayed as a gigolo.

At the trial in 2015, maids, butlers, doctors and others called him the dominating manipulator of an overmedicated, disoriented woman. They said he chose Mrs. Bettencourt’s lipstick and clothing, monitored her appointments and once suggested that she adopt him.

Bettencourt died at the age of 94 in 2017.

  • The seventh wife of rock ’n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and his third wife’s daughter have been slugging it out in court for almost two years now. Wife 7 claims that her stepdaughter financially and physically abused the famed rock singer, 83; the daughter countersued, charging her stepmother with drugging Lewis into incoherency.
  • The former business manager of Stan Lee, co-creator of The Avengers and Spider-Man, was accused of isolating Lee from friends and family, and exploiting their relationship in order to embezzle artwork, cash and other assets worth more than $5 million.

Lawyer Kirk Schenck, representing Lee and his daughter, told the Guardian that since the death of Lee’s wife in 2017, there had been “multiple men” who had tried to “attach themselves to Stan and his various businesses and to manage his affairs.”

“Elder abuse is becoming more and more common as celebrities and famous world figures are living longer and longer, amassing a significant wealth profile along the way,” said Schenck.

Lee died in 2018 at the age of 95.

Even without celebrity wealth, we’re advised to protect ourselves and family members from financial elder abuse.

Two red flags, suggests Leanne Kaufman, head of RBC Royal Trust, are “new friends” — a companion or romantic interest — or changes in spending patterns.