How a woman's fairytale romance with a renowned surgeon went wrong

ABC true crime series "The Con" explores identity fraud to misleading romances.

October 12, 2020, 1:27 PM

A new series explores real-life stories of how people were taken in by claims and promises that proved too good to be true.

From identity fraud and misleading romance to the high-profile college admission scandal and Fyre Festival, "The Con," narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, unravels how victims were fooled and the cost of their false trust.

Benita Alexander, an award-winning documentary television producer and single mother, shares her story in ABC's "The Con."
ABC News

In the series premiere, Goldberg introduces viewers to Benita Alexander, an award-winning documentary television producer and single mother, and Paolo Macchiarini, an internationally-renowned surgeon.

Alexander met and fell for Macchiarini while producing a documentary on his groundbreaking surgical techniques that used stem cells in synthetic trachea transplants. Despite crossing professional lines, Alexander found herself wooed by Macchiarini’s charm, intellect and good looks, and the pair quickly fell in love.

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini looks on during a press conference announcing what he called the successful transplant of windpipes using innovative stem cell tissue regeneration, in Florence, Italy, July 30, 2010.
Lorenzo Galassi/AP, FILE

"It was a constant shower of flowers and gifts. He would leave notes in lipstick on my bathroom mirror," she said. "He gave me a lot of beautiful jewelry."

Her down-to-earth life turned into a glamorous, "almost celebrity lifestyle," one of Alexander's friends described.

The pair had a whirlwind romance that included traveling the world with trips to London, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, the Bahamas and more. When the pair got engaged, according to Alexander, Macchiarini told her he wanted to take over planning for their wedding.

A wedding invitation from what Benita Alexander said was supposed to be a grand fairytale Italian wedding between her and Paolo Macchiarini.
ABC News

Their Italian wedding quickly became a grand, fairytale affair with an impressive guest list that included Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Elton John. Macchiarini told her that Pope Francis would be their officiant.

VIDEO: 'The Con' explores how people were lured in by things that were too good to be true

A few weeks before the wedding, Alexander realized things weren't as perfect as they seemed and used her skills as an investigative producer to uncover the truth behind Macchiarini and the planned wedding.

"The Con" airs Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.