ROME—One of Italy’s most prolific fraudsters of the 1990s has been extradited from Venezuela after being tricked into leaving his fingerprints on a recording of the 1960s hit song Girl From Ipanema.

Roberto Vivaldi, who fled Italy after being convicted of money laundering and fraudulent bankruptcy, had been living under a false name on the island of Isla de Margarita off Venezuela, where he was running a vintage-record shop.

During the pandemic, Vivaldi started doing a booming business selling records online, just as police in the Tuscan town of Prato reopened his case to try to track him down.

In late 2019, Italian authorities launched a project called “Wanted” to focus on a number of dangerous international fugitives. The COVID-19 pandemic made their task harder with travel restrictions, but many officers involved started focusing attention on social-media profiles of friends of known criminals in hiding.

Working off a tip after known associates posted birthday greetings on Vivaldi’s fake persona’s social media accounts on his actual birth date—instead of his false identity’s specified birthday—police put in an order for vintage vinyl records—including a 1960s recording of Garota de Ipanema by Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim—from Vivaldi’s online shop. When the LPs arrived by mail in Italy, they were were covered with the fugitive’s fingerprints, officials said.

Satisfied that they had found their man on the lam, Italian investigators posing as record collectors traveled to Venezuela and pretended to be emigrating there, asking for Vivaldi’s help to buy a restaurant. The veteran conman, sure he could make a buck off the collectors, agreed to be the middle man in the real-estate deal, even promising he could cut corners.

“When Vivaldi showed up at the restaurant for an appointment, he discovered the Venezuelan police were waiting for him,” Alessandro Gallo, who led the investigation, told the Times of London.

Police also managed to arrest a second Italian fugitive who had befriended Vivaldi. Flavio Febi, 33, wanted for cocaine trafficking since 2017, had also escaped justice in Italy and was hiding out on Isla Margarita. He’s also been returned to Italy to serve out his sentence.



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