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French court ups 'Oxford guru' conman's jail term

AFP/The Local · 4 Jun 2013, 18:33

Published: 04 Jun 2013 18:33 GMT+02:00

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Initially sentenced to eight years in jail for swindling a French family out of their fortune, a conman will now have to spend a decade behind bars after a court of appeal Tuesday bumped up his punishment.

Over 10 years, Thierry Tilly managed to persuade a family of Protestant nobles in southwest France to give him €4.5 million euros and sell their belongings after convincing them they were targets of a masonic plot.

He was sentenced to eight years in jail in November in the southwestern city of Bordeaux for what a judge called a "machiavellian plot", and a court of appeal increased the sentence to 10 years.

Victims of his manipulation from 1999 to 2009, the family locked themselves away in their home, earning them the nickname "recluses of Monflanquin" in reference to the medieval village of that name near their chateau.

Tilly, who claimed descent from Austria's royal Habsburg dynasty, had used manipulation techniques to convince the 11-strong family their lives were at risk from an international plot by Freemasons that only he could defeat.

He was eventually convicted of false imprisonment and psychological abuse last November.

The presiding judge at the time said that among the techniques the self-styled guru used were "creation of group paranoia... exploitation of family weaknesses... (and) a constant presence by their side, physical and then by telephone or email".

Story continues below…

French tax authorities eventually seized the chateau when the de Vedrines family stopped paying taxes, after which Tilly took them to Oxford to live.

He was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 following a complaint by a family member who had escaped his clutches in Oxford.

AFP/The Local (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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