- Actress and beauty queen Gina Lollobrigida died earlier this year aged 95
- Her assistant Andrea Piazzolla, 36, has been convicted of stealing £9m of assets
Actress Gina Lollobrigida‘s son has slammed a ‘toyboy’ for embezzling £9 million from the Italian film legend before she died in January aged 95.
Milko Skofic described Andrea Piazzolla, who was jailed for three years, as ‘heartless’ and revealed how the cunning fraudster had even forbidden him from seeing his dying mum.
Piazzolla, 36, was convicted of ‘brainwashing’ and defrauding Lollobrigida, who rose to prominence in the 1960s as the ‘world’s most beautiful woman’ and appeared in scores of films opposite actors such as Sean Connery and Tony Curtis.
Piazzolla, described as a ‘toyboy’ by Italian media, swindled Lollobrigida out of £9million worth of property, cash, cars and jewellery from 2013 to 2018 while working as her assistant, a court in Rome heard.
He cared for Lollobrigida in her final years and even moved in with the actress at her Rome villa, where he allegedly bought sports cars for hundreds of thousands of pounds with the actress’s money before selling them.
He was found guilty on Monday of taking advantage of Lollobrigida’s age and vulnerability to con her out of the vast majority of her estate.
Mr Skofic, 65, told Italian TV host Bruno Vespa:’ The first time I saw my mother in years, was when she was on her deathbed, and she was very emotional.
‘She told she had done everything wrongs as she shook her head, I was with my son Dimitri as we spoke.’
He added:’ I had expected the sentence, Piazzolla was heartless towards my mother and the evidence against him was heavy and concrete.’
Describing how he was forbidden from seeing his mother he said:’ I couldn’t speak with her because either I called and Piazzolla was there and my mother spoke on speakerphone, or he answered.
‘The problem is that I was thrown out, I was not allowed to enter the house and see my mother. But before that I was often with her, we lived close together.
‘I wasn’t allowed to talk to her and he in turn told her I wanted to have her committed so it looked as if all I wanted was her money but in reality I wanted to check on what he was spending her money on.’
When asked if he had been a good son, he replied:’ Yes, the problem is that I was kicked out by him and so it made the relationship with my mother difficult, I wasn’t allowed to see her, he wouldn’t let me.’
Piazzolla, 36, was convicted of ‘brainwashing’ and defrauding Lollobrigida, who shot to fame in the 1960s as the ‘world’s most beautiful woman’ in a series of blockbuster movies where she appeared alongside Sean Connery and Tony Curtis.
The court in Rome heard how he swindled her out of property, including an apartment in the city and one in Montecarlo, plus a house in Tuscany, cars, jewellery and cash, between 2013 and 2018 when he worked for her.
A painting of Venus and Cupid which she owned was sold for £10,000 to a French antiques store when it was worth probably ten times as much.
Piazzolla was found guilty on Monday of taking advantage of Lollobrigida’s failing health and vulnerability and given three years, although prosecutors had asked for seven.
Prosecutors and financial experts are still trying to track down other assets he may have sold and hidden away but fear they will never find them.
Her son has been awarded 450,000 Euros as an interim but the true value of her estate is estimated to be much higher although much of it was sold off by Piazzolla.
He won over her trust ands moved in with her and was often at her side, and at the same time he pushed her son aside.
Initially before she died Lollobrigida has claimed Piazzolla was innocent of everything and told the court:’ He is at my side like a son, helping me to keep going.’
She claimed her son ‘had disappeared from my life for years and returned, not to give me affectionate support, but to take my wealth away from me’.
But an expert told the court Lollobrigida had been swayed by Piazzolla while being ‘mentally vulnerable’.
In Lollobrigida’s will, the sex symbol split her assets between her son Milko Skofic Jr and Piazzolla, prompting her family to accuse the assistant of manipulating the actress into giving him a share of her estate.
That longstanding legal dispute took another twist in May when Italian authorities compiling an inventory of Lollobrigida’s estate said they found that £9million (€10million) of assets, the vast majority of the star’s wealth, have disappeared.
Now Piazzolla, who started working for Lollobrigida in 2009 when he was 21, has been convicted of embezzling that amount from the actress and ordered to immediately hand more than £500,000 to Mr Skofic.
The Italian won the actress’s trust, moved in with her in Rome and was often seen at her side at glamourous events.
Piazzolla was accused of buying a Ferrari with her money before selling it and handing the money to his parents. He was also accused of fraudulently buying a F-Type Jaguar, which he allegedly sold in 2018 for €130,000 before pocketing the proceeds.
The assistant was also accused of using the actress’s money to buy two apartments near Rome’s Spanish Steps and selling them for €2million.
When the trial first began before Lollobrigida’s death, the actress had insisted Piazzola had not stolen from her. She told the court at the time: ‘He is at my side like a son, helping me to keep going.’
Lollobrigida claimed her son Skofic, ‘had disappeared from my life for years and returned, not to give me affectionate support, but to take my wealth away from me’.
But an expert told the Rome court Lollobrigida had been swayed by Piazzolla while being in a ‘vulnerable’ state and could not be trusted with her finances as a result.
Prosecutors said Piazzolla had kept the actress in ‘isolation’ and in a ‘state of vulnerability’.
But the assistant, who has vowed to appeal against his sentence, said after the verdict: ‘I believe I was the only one who took care of Gina Lollobrigida with love.’
Piazzolla’s lawyers had claimed that Lollobrigida was not vulnerable and knew what she was doing when she signed the will and transferred assets to the assistant.
Meanwhile, Skofic told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in May that Piazzolla had ruined the last years of his mother’s life by isolating her from ‘everything she held dear’.
‘For three years, I wasn’t even able to get into her house,’ he said. ‘Her friends kept ringing me to ask why no one answered their phone calls… Nearly all of her closest friends were kept away from her… Everything was in his hands.’
Skofic launched legal action against Piazzolla as early as 2015, when he accused him of taking control of firm Vissi D’arte which manages Lollobrigida’s assets and using it to sell three luxury properties as well as buying a Pagani supercar.
The latest legal case related to 350 items of art and antiques worth an estimated £250,000 that Piazzolla is accused of selling without Lollobrigida’s knowledge.
Their relationship dates back at least a decade, to when he became her driver aged 24. He was subsequently promoted to her handyman and then to her manager, before moving to live with her along with his partner.
Speculation has swirled for years about how close the pair had become – with Piazzolla often showing up at awards ceremonies on her arm.
The actress had described Piazzolla as a ‘son’ and revealed that he has named his daughter Gina after her, describing the little girl as ‘a tiger’.
She described him as ‘a stroke of luck’ who ‘helped me move forwards’ with her life in recent years after she became estranged from Mr Skofic.
Lollobrigida also previously accused her former toyboy lover, Javier Rigau, of conning her into marriage in an attempt to inherit her money.
She was with the 58-year-old for over 20 years and the couple reportedly planned to get married, but the ceremony never took place after the star called it off.
Despite splitting up in 2007, the Spanish businessman managed to marry her by proxy in 2010 without her knowledge by using an impersonator to stand in as Lollobrigida at the service in Barcelona.
A film star and sex symbol of the 1960s and 1970s, Lollobrigida featured in more than 60 films. Along with rival Sofia Loren, Lollobrigida was one of a small number of Italian stars who achieved international fame with a career in Hollywood.
She starred in films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1956, Strange Bedfellows alongside Rock Hudson in 1965 and Good Evening, Ms Campbell in 1968 – acting alongside the likes of Sean Connery, Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra.
Known affectionately by fans and family as ‘La Lollo’, she also starred in Trapeze and Woman of Rome, and split her time between a villa in Monte Carlo, a mansion in Rome and another property in Sicily.
After acting, she started a career as a photographer and sculptor in the 1980s.