Italy's Reviled Paparazzo Fabrizio Corona Facing 10 Years in Prison

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Fabrizio Corona

The 38-year-old is charged with blackmailing high-profile figures with threats of publishing compromising photos.

ROME -- Fabrizio Corona, Italy’s self-described “King of Paparazzi” who reportedly made millions by charging famous figures not to publish embarrassing photos, saw his appeal on charges of fraud and tax evasion denied, putting him behind bars for nearly four years.

The 38-year-old Corona was for years a regular anywhere in Italy that the powerful and famous gathered, but his appearances became less frequent after legal problems emerged last year. Now, with the denied appeal and other legal issues, he could be off the scene for a decade or more.

The overturned appeal means Corona will have to serve out a sentence of three years and ten months for a €3.8 million ($4.8 million) case alleging bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion in relation to his defunct Milan-based photo agency, Corona’s. He is already serving a five-year term in Milan for extortion against Franco-Argentinean soccer star David Trezeguet, and could yet face additional jail time for initially fleeing the trial in the Trezeguet case.

His alleged victims include many of the best-known members of the entertainment, political, business and sports world in Italy and Europe. Many are unconfirmed, but those whose names have been reported in the past include Fiat car-making heir Lapo Elkann, soccer stars Francesco Coco and Adriano, TV hostess and singer Michelle Hunziker, motorcycle racer Marco Melandri, and Barbara Berlusconi, daughter of billionaire media tycoon and three-time Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

For his part, Corona has denied wrongdoing, claiming only that he allows VIPs to buy compromising photos from him for the same price he’d charge a magazine to publish them. His legal troubles have drawn wide attention, at least in part because he has fostered ill will from a great many powerful people.

In response to the denied appeal, Corona updated his Facebook fan page to show a new photo of himself wearing nothing but a towel, with the words, “Life and dreams are pages of the same book.”

Corona was convicted of extortion once before, in 2007. He served 11 weeks in jail and served out the rest of his time under house arrest. The book he wrote about the process, La mia prigione (My Prison), was briefly a best-seller in Italy.

In Erik Gandini’s 2009 documentary Videocracy, Corona explained his business model. “I am like a Robin Hood in reverse,” he said. “Robin Hood took from the rich to give to the poor, but I take from the rich to give to myself.”

The term "paparazzo" was coined in Italy, named for one of the characters in Federico Fellini's 1960 classic La Dolce Vita.

Twitter: @EricJLyman