Saturday, July 2, 2022

‘Con artist’ Julia Haart allegedly paid to meet her Italian billionaire ex


Julia Haart likes to say that she’s self-made.

But the star of the Netflix hit “My Unorthodox Life” allegedly created a persona to ensnare her estranged husband, Italian billionaire Silvio Scaglia — and insiders are now revealing the lengths that she went to meet him and marry him, including indirectly paying for an introduction in 2015.

Multiple sources told The Post that Haart, 51, presented herself as a successful and wealthy fashion entrepreneur while, in reality, her first business was losing money.

Documents seen by The Post show that Haart agreed to pay an acquaintance to be introduced to Louis Pong, one of Scaglia’s best friends and a co-investor in Elite World Group, Scaglia’s fashion company that includes brands such as La Perla.

Pong told how Haart, a mother-of-four from Monsey, NY, flew to Tokyo for a 40-minute meeting with Scaglia in April 2015 after continually begging to meet the mogul — and Pong said it was clear to him that she wanted to seduce Scaglia, who was married to his first wife, Monica, at the time.

“In my view, Julia was not just trying to charm Silvio with her designs, but with herself,” said Pong. “She asked me, ‘What should I wear, should I be sexy?’ before meeting Silvio.

“In my view she was not truly in love with him,” Pong told The Post. “Do I regret introducing them? Absolutely.” 

A rep for Haart insisted that Pong, in fact, had warned Haart about Scaglia, calling him a “bad guy” and “egotistical.” Pong denied this.

Scaglia, 63, told The Post how he fell for his wife, believing she was an astute businesswoman.

“She flew all the way just to meet me and I know now that she paid people to be introduced to me,” he said. “She claimed to have patents which she did not. This was all to make me fall in love with her.” Haart denied having a plan to seduce Scaglia.

In late 2012, Haart had left her marriage and the conservative Jewish fundamentalist community in Monsey to start a career as a shoe designer. 

“I found investors in the craziest places. I found one investor at a restaurant. Second investor on an airplane. Third investor in an eye doctor’s office,” she told the New York Times in July 2021. “Miracles. Literal miracles. I once said to them, what made you invest in me? One of them said, ‘Julia, you just looked like you wouldn’t fail, and we just trusted that.'”

“In reality she had nothing … She was just a bulk of lies from the very beginning,” Scaglia claimed to The Post. 

Indeed, Hart’s own origin story has been questioned by many who grew up with her, who say she did not suffer any abuse in her traditional Jewish neighborhood.

Pong, who is the Asian Partner of Pacific Capital, the former holding company of Scaglia’s Elite World Group, first met Haart through a staffer at his hospitality business, Lifestyle Generation, in January 2015. She said she wanted help in selling her shoes to Lane Crawford, one of the biggest department stores in Hong Kong.

Pong now claims that Haart had promised to pay the staffer and the staffer’s cousin for the introduction — and said he found out when the pair came to him in 2016 asking for the cash after Haart did not pay them. A rep for Haart said that, as written in Haart’s book, a driver in Paris who worked with a cousin of Pong offered to introduce her to him in exchange for a percentage of sales. The pair demanded money and the rep claimed that Pong helped to stop them “threatening and harassing” Haart.

When Pong saw Haart after her Lane Crawford meeting, he said, she told him, “They loved my shoes, they said they’ve never seen anything so exciting.”

However, Pong recalled, “The next week, I ran into one of the management directors … He said, ‘We might carry one or two, we’re not sure.’ And in Chinese, he said [the shoes] were a bit slutty.”

Still, Pong told Haart that she should take a stab at designing shoes for La Perla, and he would share her ideas with the team. Haart then bombarded him with calls and messages “morning and night.

“I don’t blame her,” he said. “That shows that she’s very aggressive, but she bluffed a lot — saying that everyone loved her shoes, that her company was growing.”

And Haart allegedly had a bigger goal in mind.

“She was always asking ‘When are you going to see Mr. Scaglia? How does it work at La Perla, who makes the decisions?’ I was honest and said ‘It’s the big boss himself, Silvio,'” Pong recalled. “She said … ‘Can I meet him?’ It was obvious she was doing a lot of research on him. She started asking a lot of questions about him, asking ‘Is he married? Does he have kids?’ Finally she said, ‘Please help me arrange a meeting.”

In February 2015, Haart invited herself to Whistler, Canada, where Pong was on a skiing vacation with his family — telling him that she loved skiing. 

“I don’t think she’d skied before,” Pong said. “You look at a skier, you know it’s their first time. She walked two feet and fell down on a really flat surface.” To this, a rep for Haart said she never pretended to be able to ski and insisted that Pong had offered to arrange the trip.

Haart even asked to stay with him, prompting Pong to make up a story that his house was already full with family.

“[She’s] just very pushy,” Pong said.

Finally, he invited Haart to meet Scaglia in Tokyo for an hour-long pitch meeting. Scaglia was impressed enough to ask her to go to Italy and present her ideas to the La Perla creative team. She flew to Bologna and won an initial contract to design one season of shoes.

But that wasn’t enough, Pong said. “She always wanted to be in Italy when Silvio was in Italy and always asked ‘When is he going? Should I join?'”

“I told her, ‘Hey Julia, one thing I must, must tell you … please don’t try and hook up with Silvio in a personal way.

“I said, ‘I know Silvio, I know his whole family. I know Monica, his wife. He’s a good friend’ … I introduced you to make great products for our company, not to hook up with him.'”

Nonetheless, Pong soon heard from a staffer at one of the company’s stores in Japan who saw Scaglia and Haart “being intimate.”

“I realized, ‘Oh it happened!'” he said. Pong then warned Scaglia — who split from Monica after meeting Haart but told The Post that the divorce was not because of Haart — “‘Hey buddy, I don’t think she’s the right lady for you.’ In my view, she’s a person who likes to think that she’s famous. It’s all about ‘me, me, me.'”

Haart, who at age 19 married Yosef Hendler, the father of her children, has long said that she was constricted by her orthodox Jewish society and had to break free.

“She appealed strongly to my sense of protection at the very beginning,” Scaliga said. “I think, ‘This poor woman who was escaping this community that was persecuting her for escaping this terrible husband. She had to live from hotel to hotel just because she feared her life and security’ … That story today, I think it’s totally not true.”

Still, he bought Haart a fabulous engagement ring at Tiffany’s, saying they picked it out together. “Julia always wanted more, always more.” (Sources told The Post is was valued at $2 million).

Before their marriage, Scaglia said that Haart told him she wanted to become a celebrity and do a reality show. He agreed to take part in season one of the Netflix show to support her. In a contract with Netflix, seen by The Post, she claimed that she owned Scaglia’s $65 million Tribeca apartment, which Scaglia denies.

The pair wed at Manhattan’s City Hall in 2019 and had a lavish wedding at the Amanzoe hotel in Porto Heli, Greece.

Scaglia made Haart the CEO of Elite World Group, but, according to Pong, some in the business world balked.

Pong claimed that a major investor group pulled out of funding La Perla after looking at her resume and realizing she was not equipped for the role.

Haart was given a $2 million annual budget for travel and marketing — but spent way more, Scaglia told The Post, including at least $6 million of company money “and actively hid it.” In February, he filed a lawsuit alleging that Haart used the company as her “personal piggy bank.”

She also spent millions more of his personal money, on herself and her children, Scaglia told The Post.

“Julia’s assistant sent a message on [the staff] group chat saying no one was to say anything about what [Haart was] buying,'” Scaglia’s long-time chef, Pierluigi Sandonnini, told The Post. “I told [Scaglia], ‘It’s your money, but you’re going to lose respect from people working in the house.” 

One of Haart’s former assistants, who declined to be named, told The Post how she was shocked to find that all of Haart’s personal charges were put on company credit cards and claimed that staffers were told to hide bills from Scaglia.

“I had to explain to another assistant, ‘Do you realize what you’re doing is illegal?'” the former assistant said. “God forbid they ever get audited.”

Robert Zaffiris, EWG’s former CFO, told The Post that Haart did not receive a salary, but rather a management fee. Any personal spending was netted at the end of the year against her management fees due to her. He said that, as of Dec. 31, 2021, she was still owed millions in management fees. 

Zaffiris said that board meetings were held quarterly to review spending and EWG successfully passed a PCAOB audit in December 2021.

“Mr. Zafferis has apparently been misled by Ms. Haart about the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board audit of Freedom. Mr. Scaglia asked for this audit because he is considering going public after an acquisition. The ongoing PCAOB audit has nothing to do with Haart’s requests nor is there any validation of her instances of alleged illegal misappropriation of funds now before two courts in Delaware and New York,” said Freedom Holdings Attorney Lanny Davis.   

Haart’s assistant also claimed she had to hide paperweights, as Haart would throw them while fighting with Scaglia. Haart’s rep denied this.

The assistant said she only lasted in the job a few months, quitting after Haart — who, she said, would call her at 2 a.m. to ask about things like WiFi passwords — questioned her taking time off to have a breast biopsy and insisted on seeing evidence of the procedure. Previously, staffers also told of mistreatment at Haart’s hands. A rep for Haart said she was “supportive” of the assistant.

Meanwhile, insiders claim, Haart’s lack of experience was beginning to show. “It was quite clear she was not competent,” Paolo Barbieri, a longtime business associate of Scaglia, told The Post. “She didn’t have the technical background.”

“It would take her five hours to get ready,” Sandonnini recalled. “She had hair and makeup every day, and she would say ‘I’m working so hard,’ but when I saw her iPad she was just always shopping.”

Finally, Scaglia tried to take matters into his own hands — only to be blocked by Haart, he claimed. “I thought that she didn’t really understand what she was doing. I was demanding more transparency, more control … in order to be able to help her and support her.

“I recognized that she had creative talent, but for sure she didn’t have the business experience, she was not prepared. I would have expected her to rely on me and the other board members to bring in the experience that she didn’t have but then I started to realize that she was actually cutting us out and she didn’t want us to be in it.”

Scagalia alleged that EWG lost roughly $10 million in profit with Haart at the till, and has only recently made it back. Haart’s rep said that investors pulled out of La Perla because of “issues with production and lack of organization.” 

In January, Haart got her lawyers to request that Scaglia give her equal control of EWG — which he refused. The next month she argued in a Delaware court that she owned half the company. 

Christopher Milito, of Morrison Cohen LLP, Haart’s litigation counsel, told The Post: “For three years, Mr. Scaglia signed documents to banks, taxing authorities and other government agencies confirming that Ms. Haart was a full 50% owner of the company.  It was only in 2022 that he changed his story, requiring Ms. Haart to employ legal counsel to protect her rights against the husband she was divorcing.”

In May, the Delaware court denied her bid, finding that Julia did not own half of EWG’s parent company’s preferred stock.

As things deteriorated between the couple both at home and the office, on Feb. 7, Scaglia and the other board members informed Haart by letter that she was fired. Hours later, she filed for divorce.

Haart is alleged to have illegally withdrawn $850,000 from the company shortly after she was sacked and filed for divorce. Only then, Scaglia said, did “I became convinced that she was a bad person actively trying to steal my money and get control of my company.” She has denied taking any money illegally.

Scaglia has now found love with Michelle-Marie Heinemann and said his relationship with his children and family is only recently back on track after the damage done by Haart.

Said the entrepreneur: “Today I must say I recognize that she is a master con artist.”

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