Stefano Cernetic was the Prince of Montenegro. His ancestors were said to be Julius Caesar and the real Count Dracula. He socialized and attended lavish parties on the French Riviera — as princes do — but something about him was off. He told people he could secure them diplomatic passports for a few thousand euros each; he bestowed titles upon ordinary people not born into nobility. Eventually, Cernetic was called out as a fraud.

In this entertaining, unbelievable story for Truly*Adventurous, Alessio Perrone unravels the truth about a conman and self-proclaimed prince.

Weeks later, a copy arrived on Tamenne’s desk of a baptism certificate from the Christian Orthodox Church of Trieste, the prince’s hometown. Tamenne showed it to an acquaintance who had experience verifying authenticity. Right away, the acquaintance suggested that something seemed off in part because some sections of the document seemed to have been tinkered with. It also appeared to contain a suspicious combination of fonts, indicating that multiple typewriters were used.

That was enough for Tamenne—the rumors, the obscure family history, even some of the bizarre titles. He discovered that the prince had not received the collar of the prestigious Order of Saint Sylvester after all, but the relatively worthless collar of the similarly named Association of Saint Sylvester, a different organization with a far lesser pedigree. Exaggeration was one thing, deceit was another. He had believed in the prince. With the Riviera awash in so much money, the currency with the greatest value was honor and trust.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.