Don Bauder 4:30 p.m., Dec. 12
"Lady Catarina" Goes to Trial Tomorrow
"Lady Catarina Pietra Tourmei," with an address in Rancho Santa Fe, goes on trial tomorrow, (Monday, Sept. 19) in federal court in Manhattan. She is one of three persons charged with trying to peddle valuable goods while falsely claiming to be representatives of the famed Guggenheim family. Today's (Sept. 18) New York Times has a long takeout on the Guggenheims and the alleged impostors. The bleached blonde, thrice-married Tourmei says she was given the title "Lady" by crowned heads of Europe because of her charitable works, says the Times. "In reality, Ms. Tourmei was a some-time journalist with a long resume and a home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. At one point, according to prosecutors, she claimed to be the wife of John Ratzenberger, the actor who played Cliff Clavin on 'Cheers.' (A spokeswoman for Mr. Ratzenberger said the two had a short-lived relationship.)" A potential customer noted that in trying to peddle diamonds, Ms. Tourmei seemed to be selling more diamonds than DeBeers sells. Tourmei "assured him that the Guggenheims were severing their ties with DeBeers and liquidating the diamonds in their vast private collection," says the Times. Suspicious, the potential customer then went to the Guggenheims, and the alleged scheme began to unravel.
As reported earlier in the Reader, Lady Catarina penetrated San Diego's high society — for example, in early 2009 she attended an exclusive soiree put on by David Copley and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The New York Post reported last February that she claims to have run big ad/PR campaigns for major companies, and worked as a reporter for CNN and KUSI-TV. Her real name appears to be Catarina Kim Nastopka, born in Maryland, according to the Post.