An ex-girlfriend of former Cheers star John Ratzenberger has pleaded not guilty to accusations she posed as an associate of the art world's famous Guggenheim family to scam millions out of investors.
Federal authorities allege Catarina Pietra Toumei claimed she was a countess from the famed New York family and said she was married to the TV star in a bid to dupe top businessmen, including executives from drinks giant Coca-Cola.
Toumei reportedly teamed up with 67-year-old David Birnbaum and Vladimir Zuravel, 45, who passed themselves off as David B. Guggenheim and Vladimir Z. Guggenheim, and told potential investors she was in charge of brokering deals for the Guggenheim Fund and Guggenheim Bank - both of which were non-existent organisations.
The 45-year-old blonde appeared in Manhattan Federal Court on Monday (14Feb11) and denied involvement in the scheme. Her lawyer, Jan Ronis, claims the Californian never met her alleged co-conspirators and was hired over the phone to sell investments on commission - although she didn't make any sales, reports the New York Daily News.
Ronis says, "Her role in this alleged conspiracy was certainly not criminal."
Ratzenberger rapidly distanced himself from his one-time lover when the scandal emerged in January (11). Toumei is free on $200,000 (£133,330).