A thieving con man dubbed “the worst boyfriend on the Upper East Side” has been indicted for stealing over $1.8 million from a series of women.
Nelson Counne, 69, was charged with a scheme to defraud in the first degree, two counts of grand larceny in the second degree, and grand larceny in the third degree.
“As alleged, Nelson Counne’s sole source of income for the past eight years was money he swindled,” said Manhattan District Attorney Bragg who unsealed the four count indictment March 13. “He allegedly fed lie after lie to women he falsely claimed to have a romantic interest in, enticing them with investment opportunities that never existed while using their funds to repay past victims, lure in new ones, and fund his lifestyle.”
Counne’s cons spanned the period between December 12, 2012, and January 22, 2021. He met some women through online dating apps; others through chance encounters. In each case, he dated the woman for some time and convinced them they were in a romantic relationship before persuading them to fork over money through a series of scams.
While he masqueraded as an independently wealthy investor, with multiple homes in places like London and Saint-Tropez, Counne in fact had no wealth other than that which he garnered from his various victims. He also used several aliases, including Nelson Roth.
Counne typically presented his victims with an ‘investment opportunity,’ often implying that he had illicit inside information. He would persuade the women to invest, pressuring them if they seemed hesitant.
Counne would subsequently eke out more money from the victims by claiming that all his funds were tied up in investments or that his accounts were frozen due to legal investigations, and that he needed a loan of several thousand dollars to remedy the situation. He never paid back these loans, of course; when the women pressured him for their money back, he often responded angrily or accused them of being ungrateful for everything he had done for them.
Counne has been accused of other criminal conduct in the past apart from the current fraud charges. Most notably, he was arrested several decades ago in connection with the murder of Queens jeweler Henry Shapiro, according to a 1987 article in the Daily News.
Shapiro disappeared mysteriously on September 1, 1986. He had invited Counne to a barbecue at his house in Plainview two nights prior. The same Daily News article relates that on the night of his disappearance, Shapiro was seen leaving the jewelry store where he worked with Nelson Counne, carrying $4,000 in jewelry and $2,000 in cash.
Counne claimed that after having dinner together that night, he had put Shapiro in a taxi cab back to Plainview. Shapiro’s body was found a few months later in a marsh in Far Rockaway, Queens, and had been shot four times.
Counne was arrested as one of two suspects in Shapiro’s murder and held without bail. Some sources familiar with the case stated that Counne owed Shapiro $20,000, a possible motive for the murder. However, Counne was acquitted in that case.
Counne was dubbed “the worst boyfriend on the Upper East Side” in a New Yorker article this past April. The article, by Lauren Markham detailed his defrauding of a woman on the Upper East Side.
“We urge everyone to exercise caution when told there’s an investment opportunity that seems too good to be true,” says D.A. Bragg. “If you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, we are here to help – call us at 212-335-8900.”
“He allegedly fed lie after lie to women he falsely claimed to have a romantic interest in, enticing them with investment opportunities that never existed while using their funds to repay past victims, lure in new ones, and fund his lifestyle.” - Alvin Bragg, Manhattan DA