CLAIMING TO BE Saudi Arabian Prince Khaled Al Saud, Anthony Gignac scammed hoteliers and merchants nationwide. But the gig was up when the bogus prince was mugged by two men, and the Saudi Embassy said, "Khaled who?" -----------------------------------------------------------------
MIAMI - Prince Khaled Al Saud wore only Giorgio Armani suits and Ralph Lauren shirts. His mode of travel was the stretch limousine. He slept in five-star hotels, such as the Plaza, Beverly Hills and Grand Bay.
"Charge it," was his motto. "American Express. Platinum."
But folks soon discovered the Saudi Arabian prince, who tipped with $20 bills and Chanel handbags, was really a Colombian con man. Police say he is Anthony Gignac, 25, of Bogota, who was first unmasked after he became a crime victim.
Gignac invited two men to party at his Grand Bay penthouse Dec. 30, 1993, and they beat and robbed him. Police were dispatched. They notified the Saudi Embassy, which responded "Khaled who?"
Arrested in Miami
"I've busted people claiming to be many things," said Miami Police detective Roberto Suarez. "But to impersonate royalty, that's pretty bold."
There is a real Khaled Al Saud, who is a member of the Saudi royal family, but in court papers he denies any connection with Gignac.
Before police could check further, Gignac left town. But that was not the last Miami would see of him.
Last summer, investigators nabbed Gignac - who was still
insisting he was royalty - in Chicago and he was returned to Dade County on charges he defrauded the Grand Bay hotel of $27,600 and Saks Fifth Avenue of $51,175.
While in jail awaiting trial, however, Gignac convinced an attorney that he was indeed Prince Khaled - and the attorney arranged for bail in August 1994.
Platinum con job
Once on the street, Gignac made his first stop at the American Express office in Coral Gables, where he again donned his royal persona, court records show.
American Express representatives were suspicious of Gignac, yet they issued him a Platinum card - its most exclusive piece of plastic - when Gignac, crying and saying his father the king would be most upset, claimed he had been mugged and demanded a replacement card.
"They were worried that it could be a fraud," said Silvio Cabrera, an American Express representative in Coral Gables. "The account had an open to buy on it, which is a line of credit of $200 million."
Gignac could not provide a birthday for Khaled Al Saud but correctly verified some card purchases in France and California. He also said the card could be found under the name Prince Mishaal. It was.
Fearful of offending Gignac if he truly was a prince, American Express issued him a Platinum card the next day.
Gignac's next stop was Mayors Jewelers. He charged two watches and an emerald bracelet with diamonds. The total: $22,210.
A week later, the limousine pulled up to the Mayfair shops in Coconut Grove. Gignac entered the Ralph Lauren store.
"He was very demanding, saying, `I want this, ring it up now,' " Susanne Litt, the assistant manager, recalled in a deposition. "He was telling everybody that he was a prince and that he was important and that he was extremely wealthy."
Gignac walked next door to Caron Cherry, a high-end clothier.
"He was looking for something special for a 17-year-old girl, something great, something wonderful, he was very flamboyant," assistant manager Tina Boresow said in a deposition. "I put out a couple of items and he liked one of them . . . a suede shirt. It was $3,190."
The spree lasted about a month, until American Express wised up and notified police that someone claiming to be Prince Khaled was loose with a Platinum card.
On Sept. 1, a bondsman's bounty hunter caught up with Gignac in New York and he was dragged back to the Dade County Jail.
Detective Suarez said police have since determined that Gignac is a national scammer who conned hoteliers in Beverly Hills and Disney World.
Today, Gignac - who once boasted of walks along the Champs Elysee in Paris and Worth Avenue in Palm Beach - is walking a different path: The Bridge, the windowless tunnel connecting the Dade County Jail to the courthouse, where he is scheduled for trial next month.
Gignac doesn't think his new housing - a small cell with a bunk bed, sink and urinal - is on a par with the Grand Bay.
And he is not being treated like a prince, either.