Seal tells the unbelievable true story of the shape-shifting con man called Clark Rockefeller. Much was reported after Rockefeller's arrest in 2008, but his full story has never been told. Seal spent two years interviewing almost 200 people who know the imposter and discovered that his fraud was deeper, more sinister and more widespread than anyone could have imagined. The Man in the Rockefeller Suit is the jaw-dropping story of a real-life Talented Mr. Ripley determined to live out the American dream by any means necessary.
Clark Rockefeller, a.k.a. Christian Gerhartsreiter, a.k.a. Christopher Mountbatten Chichester, a.k.a. Christopher Crowe, was born in the sleepy town of Bergen, Germany, and from his earliest days knew he was destined for something bigger and better. In 1978, at 17 years old and obsessed with America, Christian Gerhartsreiter used a tourist visa to come to Connecticut and enroll in high school. Over the next 30 years, he would work his way up the social ladder in increasingly exclusive enclaves on both coasts. The imposter charmed his way into prestigious social clubs and financial institutions--working on Wall Street with no credentials and showing off an extraordinary fake art collection that even art dealers believed was real. His lifetime of deceptions and shams culminated in a stunning twelve-year marriage to Sandra Boss, a rising star businesswoman with a Harvard MBA who believed she'd wedded a Rockefeller. But in 2008, his marriage ended and he made the grave mistake of kidnapping his own daughter. He was caught and sentenced to up to five years in prison. Authorities were finally able to connect the dots between his many identities and have him declared as a person of interest in the bizarre disappearance of a California couple in the mid-1980s that is still unsolved to this day--though Rockefeller was just charged for the murder of John Sohus on March 15th of this year.
In today's America, it's unfathomable that someone could stay in this country for three decades not as a clandestine illegal immigrant, but as a brash, outsized character, hungry for attention and fabricating connections to some of the most famous people in the world. But as his story would show, people don't usually argue with a name or ask questions if you're confident enough.
Mark Seal is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa, about the murdered wildlife filmmaker and naturalist Joan Root. Seal was a 2010 National Magazine Award finalist for his Vanity Fair profile of Clark Rockefeller.
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