‘Ruined my life’: Victim of B.C. ‘romance fraudster’ who killed himself last month speaks out

Click to play video: 'New details emerge about romance fraudster’s predatory past'
New details emerge about romance fraudster’s predatory past
As police continue their investigation of a Coquitlam woman's murder in December, new details are emerging about a fraudster suspected of being involved. Catherine Urquhart reports Gianluigi DeRossi conned several women before taking his own life – Jan 6, 2023

One of the victims of a so-called “romance fraudster” in B.C. is speaking out about her harrowing experience nearly one month after the man shot himself dead during a traffic stop in Surrey.

The woman, whom Global News is calling ‘Sarah’ to protect her safety, said she endured physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Reza Moeinian, and suspected he was capable of murder.

Read more: Family of woman killed in Coquitlam suffer devastating loss of ‘an amazing human being’

The pair met in October 2016 and seven months later, Sarah said she was $100,000 in debt and receiving threats from her former boyfriend.

“I just saw myself beheaded and blood all over the place,” she told Global News. “This guy was capable of anything and I clearly knew it was going to happen.”

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Moeinian, who later changed his name to Gianluigi Derossi, shot himself on Dec. 10 after police pulled him over at 100 Avenue and 152 Street. He died of his injuries in the hospital.

Click to play video: 'Another victim of late serial romance fraudster Reza Moeinian comes forward'
Another victim of late serial romance fraudster Reza Moeinian comes forward

It was two days after his estranged wife, Stephanie Forster, was shot and killed in her car in Coquitlam.

“I’m very sad, very upset,” said Sarah. “How come someone with a (criminal) record can easily change his legal name to get married to somebody else?

“How am I not able to change my name? I’ve been trying so hard to change my name … but they asked me for $20,000 to change some of the documents.”

Derossi had been due in court in mid-December on a charge of “fear of injury/damage to property” related to an incident that occurred back in September. He had been ordered not to communicate with Forster and not to go to her residence, workplace or school as a result.

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Court documents indicate he was later charged with breaching his conditions on Oct. 2.

In 2018, under the name Moeinian, he was accused of dating victims for months to develop a deep romantic bond with them, then convincing them to obtain credit cards and lines of credit, which he drained.

Read more: Woman’s killing in Coquitlam linked to suicide during traffic stop in Surrey

In an oral sentencing decision from October 2018 obtained by Global News, a B.C. provincial court judge said he did not “show a single gram of decency” or “an ounce of compassion” in the commission of his “heinous crimes.”

“If these were simply just financial crimes, which are very serious, where you would have elected to defraud car companies and the businesses that finance the purchase of expensive cars and credit card companies and banks and insurance companies, that would be very serious, but your offences are significantly worse because they are predatory and they are venal,” said Judge Gordon.

“You spent years, not a day or two, years, preying on innocent women and their vulnerabilities.”

Click to play video: 'Police warn of suspect wanted in Coquitlam romance scam'
Police warn of suspect wanted in Coquitlam romance scam

At that time, under his old name, Derossi was sentenced to four-and-a-half years behind bars, less time already served. He faced charges of breach of recognizance, four counts of fraud related to motor vehicles, fraud involving three complainants and perjury.

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Sarah, who reviewed the oral reasons for sentencing in a Thursday interview, said she was disappointed.

“What he’s done to people, to society, was bigger than what he got at that time,” she told Global News.

“Any minute of my life I had a fear he’s going to be out (of prison) and what’s going to happen to me and the others.”

Read more: Advocates concerned as 3 women killed in the Lower Mainland in a week

While in a relationship with Moeinian, Sarah said she begged him to take her money and leave her alone. When he did, she spent more time getting back on her feet than he spent in prison, she added.

“It’s been four years that I have zero life and long-term, it will be bankruptcy that’s forever in my record,” Sarah lamented.

“Up to today, at any bank I go to (says) ‘No, I cannot open an account for you,’ and that is horrible.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver vigil remembers B.C. women allegedly killed by partners or family'
Vancouver vigil remembers B.C. women allegedly killed by partners or family

Sarah said she continues to live in fear, constantly looking over her shoulder and refusing to pick up the phone for an unknown number. She said police were wrong to tell her the fraud was a “soft crime” when she came forward with her concerns.

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“He’d literally ruined my life … but I could only do so much,” Sarah said.

“I don’t know the entire history of Canada but I’ve never heard that someone can have 10, 15, 20 different bank cards, using all of them without any problem … how can he do any of those stuff without getting caught?”

Read more: ‘No more femicides’: B.C. women’s groups call for action on deadly domestic violence

Allison Flanagan, another one of Derossi’s victims, shares Sarah’s frustrations. Flanagan began dating him in 2015 after meeting him online. At the time, she said he called himself Tony Aquilini, and claimed to be a member of the billionaire Aquilini family of investors.

She said he convinced her to sign up for 13 credit cards and conned her out of more than $200,000, resulting in the loss of her townhouse and bankruptcy. Police recommended fraud charges, she added, but they were approved by the Crown.

“Had those charges been approved by Crown and gone through, I suspect he would still be in jail today and we could have prevented what happened to Stephanie,” she said in a recent interview with Global News.

Click to play video: 'How to avoid becoming a victim of social media fraud'
How to avoid becoming a victim of social media fraud

Derossi married Forster more than a year ago. The 39-year-old was an award-winning social and tech entrepreneur, and a humanitarian who had worked in Haiti. She also took portraits of children at the BC Children’s Hospital and of people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

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She was shot in her car on Dec. 8 after enduring months of stalking and harassment, according to her brother, Tyson Forster.

The RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Unit has confirmed a connection between Derossi’s suicide and Forster’s murder, and is still investigating.

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