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Another phony Rockefeller

He drives a Jaguar, is an expert in antiques, and claims to be from the wealthy, well-bred family. And now he’s gone.

By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / January 7, 2011

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Clark Rockefeller, you’ve got company.

A 32-year-old man calling himself Malcolm Rockefeller (real name: Eric Price) has been winning friends, influencing people, and gadding about New England for the past five years or so. “Rockefeller,’’ who affects a Brahmin accent and “high yacht club’’ apparel, according to an ex-acquaintance, has claimed to live on Beacon Hill, to have attended prestigious prep schools and Colby College, and to be a pediatrician in the Harvard medical system. All untrue.

Price, a former car salesman who pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2001, admitting he stole more than $52,000 from his employer, credit card company MBNA, managed to get himself indicted in Rockland, Maine, last October. He has since disappeared from view.

One of the first people to meet Price/Rockefeller was Robert Sezak, an antiquarian bookseller in Waterville, Maine. Several years ago, a soft-spoken man who called himself Malcolm Rockefeller drove up to Sezak’s store in a Jaguar and started discussing books. Rockefeller let slip that he attended nearby Colby College, then returned to the store a few years later, this time as Eric Price.

“I recognized him because he used to come in the store quite a bit as Rockefeller,’’ Sezak reported. “I said, ‘Didn’t you go to Colby?’ and I asked about the Jaguar. He left pretty quickly. He didn’t seem to remember about owning the Jaguar.’’

Another Maine bookseller, Ian Kahn, dealt extensively online with Price, who mentioned that he collected books with his cousin Malcolm Rockefeller. About 15 months ago, Rockefeller introduced himself to Kahn at the Portland Antiquarian Book Fair. “He’s the kind of guy I really like,’’ Kahn said, “young, passionate about books, and more knowledgeable than I am. He’s a genuinely bright guy and a great storyteller.’’ The two men became friends. “I never did any due diligence about who he might be,’’ Kahn said.

Lori Hedtler, proprietor of Boston’s Devonia Antiques, met “Rockefeller’’ several times when he arranged a bridal registry for his 2009 wedding to a man named Angel Morales. Rockefeller listed about 60 pieces of an antique Minton dinner service, worth $29,000, none of which was ever purchased. “He was very knowledgeable about antique porcelains,’’ Hedtler said. “He had a great eye, and he knew what the piece was before he turned it over. It was a pleasure dealing with him.’’

In August 2009, “Rockefeller’’ informed Hedtler that the wedding had been postponed because of a death in the family.

Hedtler and Kahn both kept e-mails from Price/Rockefeller, who used what appeared to be Harvard accounts. Price used a Harvard student e-mail, although there is no record of him attending, and “Rockefeller’’ used “m.rockefeller.md@harvard.edu,’’ promoting the fiction that he was a Harvard pediatrician. Kahn had extensive dealings with “Rockefeller’’ on Facebook, where “Mitzi Rockefeller,’’ “Gabriella Crowninshield, “Sarah Roosevelt Price,’’ and Malcolm’s supposed aunt, “Helen Saltonstall,’’ exchanged family news and gossip. Those names have all disappeared. “He had clearly created all of these accounts and played all these roles,’’ Kahn said.

There is one problem with impersonating a Rockefeller in the United States. It’s a huge family, and sooner or later you will bump up against some real Rockefellers. That is what happened late last spring, when, at the insistence of a mutual friend, Price/Rockefeller boldly and/or injudiciously accepted a dinner invitation at Two Ponds, the Camden, Maine, estate of Ken Shure and Liv Rockefeller. The real and faux Rocks had a marvy time, up until “Malcolm’’ mentioned his involvement in Doctors Without Borders. Oops. Richard Rockefeller, chairman of the US advisory board of the international organization, had never heard of him.

Worse yet, it was alleged that Price/Rockefeller had light-fingered some financial documents from his hosts’ home. This isn’t a subject the family wants to discuss. “This has been a highly embarrassing moment for us,’’ Shure said, declining to talk about “Malcolm.’’ He and his wife went to the police, who eventually indicted Eric Price.

“He stole a number of items of minimal tangible value, primarily paperwork about bank statements and stocks,’’ said Knox County assistant district attorney Christopher Fernald. “But these items have significant potential value for impersonation and identity theft. He was able to gain the trust of the Shure-Rockefeller family by pretending to be someone he wasn’t. We heard this wasn’t his first time doing this.’’

Where is he now? “If we knew, we’d arrest him,’’ Fernald said.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.