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 has multiple aliases, claimed to have a diplomatic passport, has used his children in other financial scams, has booked a one-way airline ticket to Casablanca and has hidden a "whole mess of cash," a federal prosecutor said in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Wednesday.
Blessed Marvelous Herve, 41, 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 $43 million the U.S. government had supposedly seized from his father so he could buy luxury homes in the Bay Area. Kabila and Herve are both 41 years old.
If convicted, Herve, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but has lived in the U.S. since March 1992 and became a U.S citizen in March 2013, could face up to 20 years in prison. He was arraigned on an indictment for federal wire fraud Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutor Hallie Hoffman appeared before Judge Nathaniel Cousins on Wednesday to argue that Herve should be kept in custody as his case makes its way through the courts. The detention hearing kicked off with the stocky Herve being led into the courtroom clad in a yellow Alameda County Jail uniform, accompanied by U.S. Marshals.
Attorney Edward Hu of the Public Defender's Office argued for allowing Herve out of custody on a $100,000 bail, saying he was not a flight risk. In doing so, Hu acknowledged prosecutors' claim that Herve had booked a one-way ticket to Japan and subsequently changed it to a one-way fare to Casablanca, Morocco.
But Hu said Herve is a professional musician and that his Blessed Marvelous Herve Jazz Ochestra had been booked to perform in both countries, on the heels of previous gigs in Mexico in 2007 and Casablanca in 2012.
"His international travel is directly related to his occupation," Hu said, noting that Herve would turn in his passport and be willing to be subject to electronic monitoring during his travels.
Hu also noted that Herve was convicted in the mid-1990s of possession of fraudulent documents – in this case a passport – but that the conviction was for a misdemeanor and was not tied to his own financial gain.
He said Herve was not able to have family members appear in court as an assurance that he won't flee because his entire family was murdered in the Congo in May 1993. Herve successfully applied for asylym in the U.S. in the wake of that, Hu said.
Hoffman told Cousins that there were no conditions under which the federal government would support Herve's release from custody, saying there was "overwhelming evidence" that he was a flight risk and that he had no ties to the Bay Area. Hoffman said that Herve's only known familial connection was his fiancee, who lives in Casablanca.
Hoffman said Herve's fraud conviction was for obtaining a fraudulent passport. He did so by getting a Social Security card based on a fraudulent birth certificate that said he was born in Los Angeles. Hoffman said he obtained the birth certificate by presenting fake Los Angeles Unified School District documents listing his mother as LA resident Rose Herve Wright.
Herve has at least three other aliases, Hoffman said, noting that he was granted asylum in the U.S. under the name Herve Rodrigue Nedando, and has used derivations of both names on additional documents.
Hoffman said that the victims in the case, identified only by their respective initials ("BE" and "KW") in an affidavit filed by FBI Agent Brian Weber, said that Herve showed them a diplomatic passport in an effort to bolster his credibility. She said federal investigators have been unable to find the passport since Herve was taken into custody on April 25.
Investigators have also unable to find much of the $1.6 million he allegedly bilked out of the Marin couple, she said. Hoffman claimed that Herve had $47,000 deposited into his bank account last October and immediately had it wired it elsewhere.
"We are very concerned that the defendant has access to a whole mess of cash," she said.
Hoffman rejected Hu's claim that Herve's trips were for musical performances, noting that Herve listed himself as "unemployed" on his application for U.S. citizenship. Hu countered that that was simply a reflection of the ebbs and flows of the music business.
On Blessed Marvelous Herve's Flickr page, he calls himself a "romantic poet and an accomplished Jazz musician" who "writes romantic greeding cards."
Hoffman said Herve successfully solicited $65,000 from the Marin victims while he was purportedly performing in Casablanca in 2012, telling them at the time that he was incarcerated. She also alleged that Herve has solicited $100,000 from another victim, including $10,000 during the week of his arrest, under the pretense that the U.S. government had seized all of his money under the Patriot Act and that he needed the money for his son's medical care.
As for Herve's two children, they are 12-year-old America Rose Marvelous Herve, who Hoffman claimed that Herve hasn't seen since she was 20 months old, as well as 2-year-old Alvin, who lives in Wisconsin with his mother. Hoffman said that Herve was delinquent on his child support payments and previously skipped a court appearance on the matter by claiming that he was in France getting a kidney transplant.
As Hu attemped to refute Hoffman's claims, Herve made it clear that he wanted to speak up for himself in court. Cousins advised him to confer with Hu first, and a lengthy discussion ensued, after which Cousins agreed to delay the hearing until he could speak with Herve further about the risks associated with speaking on his own behalf during the hearing. Herve is back in court May 22.
The detention hearing was delayed late last month after Herve alleged that he was under a nearly 24-hour lockdown at the Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland since he was taken into custody on April 25. That dispute appears to have been resolved.
According to the affidavit filed by Weber, Herve promised the Marin real estate 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/
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.