Hathaway's Italian ex merits less jail time-lawyer

Anne Hathaway (L), dressed in Marchesa and wearing jewellery by Harry Winston, and her boyfriend Raffaello Follieri arrive at the 80th annual Academy Awards, the Oscars, in Hollywood February 24, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Italian businessman who dated Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway and admitted to a fraudulent real estate scheme based on links to the Vatican should get three years in prison, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Raffaello Follieri, 30, pleaded guilty in September to a scheme in which he fraudulently obtained more than $2 million by misleading investors to believe he had Vatican connections that enabled him to buy the Roman Catholic Church’s unwanted U.S. real estate properties at a discount.

In a sentencing memo filed on Tuesday, Follieri’s lawyer told U.S. District Judge John Koeltl he should speed up Follieri’s deportation back to Italy and reduce his prison time to three years from the five years and three months recommended under his plea deal. He is due to be sentenced on October 23.

“To say his hopes and dreams of building a thriving business in the United States has been a disaster is an understatement,” said lawyer Flora Edwards after citing Follieri’s “deeply religious” values and a sick mother. “There is no danger he will ever return to this country.”

Follieri, a native of Foggia, Italy, who arrived in the United States in 2003, dated Hathaway for four years before his arrest in June.

Last month Hathaway, who starred in “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Get Smart,” told W magazine that she felt like “a rug was pulled out from under me” when Follieri was first arrested. After breaking up with him, the Brooklyn native said she was still looking for a new place to live.

Prosecutors said Follieri used the money from his scheme to pay for expensive clothes, meals and a $37,000-a-month Manhattan apartment, as well exotic vacations and private jets for his girlfriend.

They described him as a con-man and said he forged a real-estate venture with California supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle. He also befriended Douglas Band, top aide to former President Bill Clinton.

Reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Michelle Nichols and Eric Walsh