‘Worst boyfriend’ scammer, accused of swindling $1.8M, should be jailed for life says first victim

Nelson Counne conned Kristie out of $5,000 and a year of her life with his web of lies after they met in 2000.

He lied about being a Vietnam hero, an art dealer and having cancer.

But she managed to get justice when he was jailed for a year – and Kristie built a new life and found a loving marriage.

Now she’s speaking out as Counne, 69, is back behind bars, awaiting trial on charges of swindling $1.8 million from five other women after being dubbed the “worst boyfriend on the Upper East Side.”

“I think he should be in jail for all of his life,” Kristie, who asked that her full name be withheld, told the Post. “He rapes women of their money, of their dignity.”

Kristie, right, crossed paths with Nelson Counne in August 2000 at an Upper East Side restaurant. She later helped convict him of grand larceny in 2001. He’s now accuse of stealing more than $1.8 million from five women between 2012 and January.

Kristie was 49 when she met Counne in August 2000, at Upper East Side Italian restaurant Campagnola.

She was healing from “quite a painful breakup” and was instantly intrigued by the “handsome” man.

Nelson Counne romance fraudster arraigned on new charges
This is Counne, 69, now – being perp walked at court in Manhattan, where he failed to make bail on charges of committing years of romance scams.
Steven Hirsch

The hypnotic stranger said he was an art dealer visiting New York from Hastings, England, to finish a deal that “wasn’t totally legit” but would make him very wealthy, Kristie, now 71, recalled.

“Disarmingly charming,” he took off a gold ring from his finger and put it onto hers. The smitten pair then kept the vibe going at a piano bar, dancing and locking eyes longingly.

Days later, Kristie and Counne went out again, this time to JG Melon for burgers.

He kissed her goodnight as they parted ways at her apartment – only to call Kristie back moments later to claim he was locked out of his friend’s place.

Kristie let Counne upstairs to make a phone call as he insisted his friend promised to send a limousine to drop off keys.

But that spiel – and nearly every tale to come – was a “total lie,” Kristie said, acknowledging her persuasive friend ended up spending the night.

Kristie and Nelson Counne
Kristie and Counne at the start of a romance which was built on his foundation of lies. It ended when his lies became too much and she went to the NYPD.

“I was very attracted to him, he was very charming at first,” she told The Post. “He pulled me right in.”

Counne fabricated nearly every aspect of his life – from dangling investment opportunities to lying that he received a Purple Heart from serving in Vietnam.

“He was absolutely a sweet talker,” Kristie said. “Then he came up with this investment plan that if I gave him some money, he could give me back ten times that because he had this person allowing him to invest. And he wanted me to make money.”

Kristie gave Counne $1,000, but the promised payoff never came.

Then the “enticing” storyteller proposed with a diamond ring he told her not to wear until it could be insured.

“So, I took the diamond ring to a jeweler up the block from me to see if it was real,” she said. “And it wasn’t.”

Nelson Counne, romance fraudster
Kristie said she “opened up” to Nelson Counne, who in turn, told her a litany of lies, like being a Vietnam vet who received a Purple Heart.

Counne “exploded” when she confronted him, but the couple stayed together. He invited her to go to Europe with him over Christmas.

But then he canceled, claiming he had colon cancer, was in New York-Presbyterian Hospital but did not want to be seen.

When she tried to visit, staffers told her he had “never registered.” Counne claimed he was unlisted on a private floor.

“There was always an excuse. It’s amazing what he conjured up, like the feds were after him,” Kristie said. “But to me, I was ready in my life to let go, just to abandon my life and he painted this fantasy of a life that we could lead together. I wanted to just explore and go to Europe and have all this money that he told me we were going to have.”

Even then, he kept pressing her for money, bilking her out of $5,000 in all despite the glaring red flags.

Kristie, victim of romance scam
Kristie at her home Sunday in the Upper East Side.
Emmy Park for NY Post

The following spring, Kristie realized she was missing a $2,000 diamond ring and she immediately suspected Counne, who denied taking it.

Then she got a call from another woman, Elaine, who had been dating Counne as well, and who had lost a necklace.

The two bonded and began digging into the lothario, eventually meeting a third woman in Philadelphia who was also conned.

Kristie kept dating him just to gather evidence from his cellphone bills – which Elaine had been paying. “We were detectives and we were finding clues,” Kristie said. “We were determined to put this guy in jail.”

The final straw was a callous 9/11 lie. Counne claimed he witnessed the towers falling from his supposed new place in Battery Park.

But Kristie and Elaine both knew that was untrue.

They reported the stolen jewelry to police, leading to Counne’s conviction in fall 2001 on two counts of grand larceny. He was sentenced to a year in prison, and served eight months.

Kristie put Counne behind her, and in 2008 married “beautiful and loving” Chuck, whom she met online.

Nelson Counne in court
Counne remains behind bars after a court appearance, but his attorney told The Post that the women he dated were after “gold” and that he is innocent.
Steven Hirsch

But Counne did not move on. In fact, The New Yorker revealed last April he was still doing exactly what he had done to Kristie.

In 2018, he called himself “Nelson Roth” while meeting an Upper East Side woman online, using the same ruse of being an art dealer ruse with multiple homes around the world and a luxury apartment on East 63rd Street.

The woman unmasked Counne as a con artist with the help of her daughter and a private investigator.

He really lived on East 82nd Street, had three grand larceny convictions, most recently in 2007, and was also acquitted of murdering a jewelry dealer in 1987.

Counne was arrested earlier this month and is now facing charges of stealing more than $1.8 million from five women as far back as 2012. He has not made $150,000 bail.

Prosecutors say since 2015, he lived entirely by scamming.

Using aliases like Nelson or Justin Roth, Counne met women online, scamming them for cash by lying that he was a retired art dealer with homes in Manhattan, London, and the south of France, prosecutors said.

In fact, prosecutors say, Counne has never even left the country, and every cent in his accounts comes from ill-gotten gains.

His attorney, Danielle Von Lehman, called the charges “false” while casting blame on the alleged victims.

Nelson Counne, romance scammer
Exposed: Counne was caught first by an alliance of scammed lovers and then arrested this year after one of his victims used a PI to find the truth about him.

“These women all appear to be grown, sophisticated people who got involved with Mr. Counne at different times, and were never forced to do anything they did not choose to do of their own free will,” Von Lehman told The Post.

“Women are perfectly capable of making choices,” Von Lehman said. “These women had dreams, they saw gold, they made choices, Mr. Counne had dreams, he made plans, and he failed.”

In 2022, romance scams nationwide totaled $1.3 billion, with an average loss of $4,400, the Federal Trade Commission revealed in February.

Kristie plans to attend Counne’s trial and has been penning a screenplay on her ordeal. “I think it’s very empowering for women to hear my story,” she said. “And to know that they’re not alone, that this happens all the time.”

As for her one-time lover: “I knew who he was back then, when I put him in jail. This is who is he is; he’s a serial con man.”