“Superhuman” brainwashed French aristocrats for €3 million
Thierry Tilly allegedly introduced himself as a secret agent and convinced the rich De Vedrines family that they were the lost descendants of an ancient society called “L'Equilibre du Monde” (“The Balance of the World”).
The manipulative man also told his victims that he possessed "superhuman powers" to help them reclaim their illustrious past and its "limitless treasure."
In the five years after they met Tilly in the late 1990s, the De Vedrines family, headed by the elderly matriarch Guillemette, severed ties with their relatives and friends and barricaded themselves in their chateau near Bordeaux.
They went on to sell off €3 million worth of furniture, jeweler and properties, including the family seat.
They moved to the English city of Oxford in 2006 and lived in various suburban homes, failing to pay rent on several of them, which brought the family to court on small claims.
45-year-old Tilly was taken by the police in Switzerland October and extradited to Bordeaux, where he stands accused of "fraud, abuse of weakness, extortion, kidnapping and acts of torture and barbarism."
The arrest came after Christine de Vedrines, the wife of Guillemette's son Charles Henri, contacted law enforcement officers in March, claiming she had suffered violent abuse at the hands of her family and Tilly.
A source in the French police is cited as saying that "they prevented her [Christine] from sleeping, she lived in the dark for days, with only water to sustain her. She kept the same clothes for weeks" because she could not provide the "key" to the family fortune they believed she possessed.
On Tuesday, the De Vedrines played down the claims of abuse, saying that Tilly was simply a "good family friend."