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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
3 February 2022, 12:43

Vintage vinyl LP sale results in 25-year fugitive fraudster arrest 

Social media investigation and fingerprints on a rare copy of 'The Girl from Ipanema' finally brought the criminal to justice

Vintage vinyl LP sale results in 25-year fugitive fraudster arrest 

The sale of vintage vinyl has led to the arrest of a fugitive fraudster who has been on the run for a quarter of a century. 

Roberto Vivaldi, now 69-years-old, fled Italy in 1997 after receiving a 20-year prison sentence for a number of financial offences, including fraudulent bankruptcy and money laundering. His name remained on a list of wanted criminals before the case was handed to the police flying squad in his hometown of Prato, near Florence. 

As flying squad chief Alessandro Gallo told The Times newspaper, his team began looking into the social media accounts of Vivaldi's friends, associates, and relatives. "[We] found some were in touch with a profile based in Venezuela," he said. "They were all very careful when communicating with this profile, until an old friend of Vivaldi's sent birthday greetings on a day which did not coincide with the date of birth listed on the profile." 

Research into the account revealed that the individual was selling a number of old vinyl records online. Officers set up a false account on the site being used to advertise the music collection, along with a fake mailing address. Then they placed an order. Among the items was a 1960s recording of Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim's Bossa Nova jazz classic 'Garota de Ipanema', or 'The Girl from Ipanema', performed by Astrid Gilberto and Stan Getz. 

"When the records arrived in Italy we dusted the covers for fingerprints and found what we wanted — some of the prints matched Vivaldi’s. To get Venezuela to arrest him we needed more than prints, and since he was only selling online we still needed an address," said Galo. 

Still under the assumed identity of vinyl collectors, a friendship was struck between the seller and undercover officers, who 'let slip' they had always wanted to move to Venezuela. A meeting was arranged in a restaurant on Margarita Island, where the suspect lived, Vivaldi showed up and found the local police waiting to take him into custody.

The story has broken at a time when vinyl sales have reached record highs in the UK and US. In 2019, DJ Mag investigated the culture of 'flipping' rare records on second hand music platforms like Discogs, effectively inflating the value of vinyl being sold.