Same Modus Operandi: English Accent;
Prep School, Links To Royalty Claimed
By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
COOPERSTOWN – An English accent, a boarding school education, ties to royalty and a background in high-end home decorating.
These were the lies Antoine Bourbon-Parme – also known as Anthony Cazzari – allegedly told around town.
“He had everyone believing he was from England,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “He grew up in Putnam County.”
On Tuesday, April 2, Bourbon-Parme, 59, the former co-director of the Cooperstown Food Pantry, was charged with stealing $18,579 from the organization’s bank accounts over 16 months, beginning in October 2017 and ending in late January, by forging the signatures of Audrey Murray, retired director; Stacey Smith, director, and Sharon Oberriter, president, the only people with access to the account.
But Muehl said that Bourbon-Parme had a history of defrauding people, including a case in Lower Makefield, Pa., north of Philadelphia, where he was arrested in 1999 – as Anthony Gerard Cazzari, a.k.a. Antoine G.B. de Bourbon-Parme – and charged with stealing $300,000 for 12 victims across four states by posing as an interior designer.
According to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer in June 1999, Bourbon-Parme told investors that he was of royal birth, had been educated at European schools and had connections with the New York art world.
“He was a smooth talker who spoke several languages,” Sgt. Henry O’Brien, Lower Makefield Township Police, was quoted as saying.
Police said a Lower Makefield couple arranged for Bourbon-Parme to decorate two homes with furniture, wallpaper and draperies.
“All he delivered was junk” said O’Brien.
In Lower Makefield, he was charged with theft by deception, and faced similar charges in North Carolina, Maryland, New York and Washington D.C.
At some point, Muehl said, he legally changed his name from Anthony Cazzari to Antoine Bourbon-Parme. He has been a volunteer with the Food Pantry since 2015, and served as co-director for a time.
In late February, the directors of the Cooperstown Food Pantry approached Muehl with concerns that checks had been cashed with fake signatures.
“They came to us with discrepancies in their money,” said Muehl. “I had Sean Ralph” – an investigator with the state Department of Financial Services – “look into these discrepancies, and saw checks that didn’t appear to be authentic.”
In reviewing the financial records, Ralph allegedly found Murray’s signature was on checks written Oct. 20, 2017, for $1,959.99, and March 27, 2018 for $1,572. Smith’s signature was allegedly forged on checks dated Dec. 31 2018, Bourbon-Parme’s birthday, the first for $825 and the second for $1,925, and Oberriter’s signature appeared on two checks, one dated Nov. 6, 2018 for $1,536 and the other dated Jan. 22, 2019 for $1,852.38.
“The signatures did not appear to be authentic,” said Muehl.
Two checks, one for $2,303 from June 19, 2018, and another for $4,997.90, on Dec. 18, 2018, were not signed, allegedly deposited into Bourbon-Parme’s accounts using a mobile deposit app.
All three women confirmed they had not written those checks.
Bourbon-Parme was brought in for questioning and, according to Muehl, confessed to Ralph that he took the money. He was arraigned in Otsego Town Court and remanded to the Otsego County Correctional Facility. He is currently out on bail.
The investigation remains open, but Muehl said that no one else has come forward with accusations of theft.
At the Cooperstown Food Pantry, Smith issued a statement on behalf of the pantry, assuring that their mission would continue without interruption.
“Although the loss incurred was not insubstantial, we remain in strong financial shape,” she wrote. “This does not affect our mission or our ability to carry on normal operations.”
Bourbon-Parme was also a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, where the food pantry is housed.
“The First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown holds Antoine Bourbon-Parme in our prayers,” said Pastor Elsie Rhodes in a statement given to this paper by Tom Heitz, Clerk of Session for the church. “And we continue to pursue due diligence in our support for the Cooperstown Food Pantry and the community that it continues to fully serve as before.”