A couple from Montana scammed a nation and the press to become Winter Olympians from the nation of Dominica. And now they–and their lies–have been exposed.
A longtime sportswriter who used to work at the Washington City Paper exposed the couple as scam artists and notes “the couple makes a compelling case for “closing the eligibility loopholes that allow moneyed pranksters to dress up as Olympians.”
Gary di Silvestri and his wife, Angelica Morrone, are in their late 40s and live in Montana. Di Silvestri was born on Staten Island and his wife is from Italy. But they became the country of Dominica’s first Olympians this year, even participating in the opening ceremony in Sochi. As writer Dave McKenna noted, “the country of Dominica is a tropical paradise in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea with an average temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months and precisely zero snowfall.”
Yet the founding members of the nation’s team scammed the nation and the press with false tales of their backgrounds to actually buy their way to the Olympics. According to the report:
The couple are the lone members of Dominica’s Winter Olympic team, which may seem odd considering di Silvestri originally is from Staten Island, New York, and Morrone is an Italian national currently residing with di Silvestri in a “mountain palace” in Montana.
The many myths about the Olympic couple that have been a source for ‘puffy’ media pieces during the Games, however, were outed by longtime sports journalist Dave McKenna in a lengthy report for Deadspin.
According to the report, the couple took advantage of what the tiny nation sells on its website as ‘economic citizenship,’ which means any married couple can become a Dominican citizen if they deposit $175,000 ‘into the appropriate account at the National Commercial Bank of Dominica.’
Another $3,530 must then be paid to the Ministry of Finance for fees and tariffs, and just like that you’re a citizen of Dominica and can qualify to form the tropical country’s previously non-existent Winter Olympic team.
When they actually made the Olympics, Morrone “didn’t even show up for the 10k Women’s Classic – the only one of the 76 racers who didn’t make it to the starting line.” And di Silvestri “started the 15k Men’s Classic, but quit after a few hundred meters. He was the only participant who didn’t make it to at least the first checkpoint.” Di Silvestri listed various athletic accomplishments and awards he never received and his wife once tried to bribe an Olympic official while she worked in the private sector.
Their phony accomplishments were heralded in the mainstream press like Time and NBC, as McKenna reported:
Take, for example, NBC OlympicTalk’s write-up of di Silvestri’s pre-Olympic sportsmanliness. The piece says he “was a two-time state wrestling champion” and that he “rowed for a national championship team at Georgetown,” tidbits likely sourced to di Silvestri and repeated in countless wire stories during the games. Neither claim holds up.
Di Silvestri’s WordPress blog and LinkedIn pages, presumably self-authored, don’t mention state titles, but both boast that di Silvestri “earned … three New York Downstate Wrestling Championships while a student at Monsignor Farrell High School.” In the “About Me” portion of a site called CVShare, di Silvestri describes himself as a “New York Downstate Wrestling Champion as well as a three-time New York City Wrestling Champion.” At Flavors.me, di Silvestri’s bio says “he was named the New York Downstate Champion in wrestling.”
Alas, there’s not much evidence of any such championships outside of the NBC bio and di Silvestri’s own claims. There is no mention of any city or state championships anywhere in his Monsignor Farrell yearbook entry (class of ’85). And a 2000 article for the, a local newspaper, about di Silvestri paying $100,000 for naming rights to the wrestling room at his old high school, alerts readers to no schoolboy titles of note. When he was subsequently inducted into Monsignor Farrell’s Hall of Fame, the write-up notes that di Silvestri was a “Staten Island Advance All-Star” as a wrestler, but says nothing about city or state championships.