‘Worst boyfriend’ accused of swindling $500,000 from Greenwich woman
GREENWICH — A man described in a recent magazine article as "the Worst Boyfriend on the Upper East Side" based on a reported serial history of romance, fraud and theft is now facing a felony charge in Connecticut alleging he stole $500,000 from a 75-year-old Greenwich woman.
Nelson Counne, 69, of East 82nd Street, New York City, has been jailed before on grand larceny convictions in New York state after he was accused of romancing older women and persuading them to give him large amounts of money for "business deals" that never materialized. Counne is now being charged with running a similar type of scam in Greenwich and was booked on a felony larceny charge earlier this month.
The article in The New Yorker magazine in April 2022 describes Counne's alleged practice of meeting older women and romancing them at swanky Manhattan bars and restaurants, like Bemelman's Bar in the Carlyle Hotel. The article by writer Lauren Markham recounts the experience of a family friend of hers with Counne and cites his visits to Greenwich, where he was seen with a martini in hand at an outdoor restaurant chatting with fellow diners.
Greenwich police said they were sent a copy of the New Yorker article as part of their investigation.
Greenwich police were first contacted about Counne by a local woman in March 2021 and her dealings with the suspected swindler, who was using the name "Nelson Roth," according to the arrest warrant application in state Superior Court in Stamford. The woman told police she had given him $75,000 and he promised her that he "would return her investment 10 times the amount she had provided," according to the court filing. It was a promise that Counne had used before, according to the New Yorker article and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, which had convicted Counne previously on charges of grand larceny in 2004 and 2008.
The Greenwich woman later stopped cooperating with Greenwich police and stated that she and Counne were in a romantic relationship, according to the affidavit. The two were married in Virginia in 2021, the court filing states.
At that time, a Greenwich detective contacted the Manhattan D.A.'s office and a prosecutor there told him that investigations were continuing "against Counne with a total loss reported by the victims nearing $1 million dollars," the affidavit stated. The D.A. told the Greenwich detective that Counne had no source of income and they could find no commercial licensing or business activity of any kind.
The case was re-opened in September 2021 when the woman reached out to police and said she was fearful for her physical safety, the court filing stated, and that she had given Counne a total of $500,000. The woman told police "she was always in fear."
After obtaining a search warrant, police discovered that Counne had spent thousands of dollars at restaurants, as well as paying off personal bills, according to the court filing.
Records show Counne has been accused of or the victim of criminal violence before.
Counne was charged with — and acquitted of — second-degree murder at the age of 34 in the 1980s in the shooting death of a jeweler in Queens. He was charged with assault in Greenwich in June 2020 for allegedly striking a woman in a car in Cos Cob. That charge was later dropped.
Counne was the victim of a shooting in 1990, when a gunman shot him twice in the chest on East 80th Street. A police spokesman said at the time the shooting appeared to "a hit," according to an account of the attack in the New York Times. No one was ever charged in the shooting.
Counne's father, Jack Counne, who was allegedly involved in a high-stakes gambling operation in Manhattan, was arrested in 1970 by New York City police on gambling charges. He was later murdered in 1975 in his Manhattan apartment.
Counne was already being detained in the Riker's Island lock-up by New York law enforcement authorities when he was picked up by Greenwich police on Sept. 16. He was later booked in Greenwich on a charge of first-degree larceny, a felony.
He is currently in Connecticut state custody in lieu of a $150,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for Nov. 9, according to the state Superior Court calendar.