Tomato Markus they called him in jail. Because he worked in the prison nursery. And tomatoes thrived under his care. Basel Markus B.* (60) spent half his life behind bars because he is a notorious imposter and just can’t stop himself. Whenever he could enjoy his life in freedom, instead of working, he uses his talents solely to wrap other people around his finger and rip them off.
Now he’s done it again! At least 17 victims fell for him between 2016 and 2020. Amount of damage: 1.06 million francs! He killed a French woman for over half a million francs. He lived on their country estate, drove expensive cars, went on alleged “business trips”, had employees – people gave him money for this lifestyle, he promised hefty profits. It was nothing more than lies and fraud.
With expensive cars and country estate in France all blinded
Now Markus B. was in court in Basel on Tuesday. Yet again! Already in 2004 he was sentenced to three years in prison, in 2008 he received a prison sentence of 30 months, in 2013 again a sentence of several years and further months in 2015.
In 2003 he was even taken into custody “due to serious endangerment of the public” – and this was the first Swiss white-collar criminal ever. Fact: commercial fraud. But after a change of law in 2007, only violent criminals could be kept in custody – and Markus B. was released. He then opened the flower shop «Forget me not» in Jegenstorf BE. He cost six people more than 250,000 francs. Back then, too, he “bought” cars, rented a house and the shop, hired people – and owed everything.
First cars, then a country estate
Markus B. committed his latest misdemeanors, for which he now has to answer in court, from 2016, when he got out of jail again. For four years, the imposter fooled many people with his fictitious promises and his well-considered appearance as an allegedly rich hotel heir.
First he organized cars. He has owned at least one BMW, one Land Rover and one Mercedes 450 SL over the four years. Then he fooled a rich French woman into believing that he wanted to buy her stately estate. Until she took over, she let him live in the park with the imposing garden in the chalet and drive her Porsche.
He promised to invest people’s money wisely
Markus B. lied to everyone that he was rich and worked as a top manager. Half of the estate already belongs to him, he told the other victims. So they trusted the alleged entrepreneur. B. also pretended to everyone that he was familiar with derivatives transactions. If they would give him their money, he would invest it profitably.
The French entrusted him with 523,000 francs. He stole 388,800 francs from a couple from the same French village not far from Basel. Other victims gave him thousands of francs to invest in. But Markus B. squandered all the money for his lavish lifestyle – and to maintain the image of the rich hotel heir. He also hired young men to be his personal assistants and drivers.
One of the young victims says to Blick: “He let me drive around for eight months without ever seeing any money. For example, he promised to buy a Lambo, which I would then be allowed to drive. Or that I get my own BMW, which then belongs to me. He just knows how to make someone dream and buy his promises.” Markus B. has an incredible feeling for people. “He knows exactly who will fall for him and who he has to serve what to.”
“At some point I realized: the man is an impostor”
The victim was working in road construction at the time when Markus B. simply approached him and asked if he would rather be a driver. «I drove him to supposed meetings, for example to Budapest. He sometimes had business appointments, so I wasn’t surprised that other days he only went out for coffee. I thought he could afford it.”
And suddenly it clicked for him. “At some point I realized: the man is an impostor. And I’ll never get my wages.” When he sought legal help, the lawyers confirmed that Markus B. had a relevant criminal record.
The road builder is sitting on almost 30,000 francs of lost wages, but he is not ashamed of having fallen for B. «Life prepares you for what else is to come. Now I only believe what I see in black and white. He could just speak incredibly well – like a real entrepreneur. But I don’t fall for that so easily anymore.” Only one thing annoys him: “The problem is: if he gets out of jail, he will do the same thing again. Not even a psychiatrist can help that.”
Got four years in jail
In court, Markus B. was remorseful and apologized to the victims. He said he didn’t understand himself how history could repeat itself. After this deprivation of liberty, he wanted to work as a gardener or German teacher. “I’ve thought about which paths I can take and what’s realistic. However, the reverie doesn’t just go away,” he admitted. “But first I have to learn to just like myself to a certain extent.”
The trial was abbreviated and the accused silently accepted the previously announced 48-month prison sentence.
Luxury life stolen: This is the trailer for the Netflix hit «Inventing Anna»(02:15)
* Name changed