A JOURNALIST revealed the chilling clue that disclosed her lover and famed surgeon as a “romance scammer.”
Documentary producer Benita Alexander thought it was love when her job introduced her to internationally renowned surgeon Paolo Macchiarini.
Benita was pursuing a big story when the ill-fated lovers met in 2013.
A successful TV journalist, the single mother-of-one was interviewing him for a report on cutting-edge medicine.
“I was doing a story about regenerative medicine and his name kept coming up,” Benita, a New York resident, said on the podcast Dr Death: Miracle Man.
Macchiarini had been credited with developing innovative surgical techniques using stem cells in synthetic trachea transplants.
They became friends and over time she felt herself falling for him, despite her journalistic integrity impeding the romance.
“He seemed like he was the miracle man,” she said.
“He was a top doctor, he spoke six or seven languages.
“He was a good listener and gave me sage and solid advice.”
In mid-2013, they became a couple and in December that year they became ‘pre-engaged’ as Macchiarini, who lived in Barcelona, Spain, said he was still legally married with two children but had been separated for a long time and was filing for divorce.
It was eight months later when they became properly engaged after Macchiarini presented her with a $100K ring.
The couple had the wedding planned for July 2015.
“The headline is that it started out as a beautiful love story and it ended up as a total nightmare,” said Benita.
“I, to this day, have no idea why he lied about our entire relationship.”
Macchiarini and Benita quickly started planning an extravagant wedding, she said.
It was beyond Benita’s wildest dreams – Macchiarini reportedly told her he invited Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Elton John, and that the Pope himself would oversee the ceremony.
It was at this point that Benita said she started to feel that something was not right.
After doing some digging, it transpired that Macchiarini was not the medical genius she thought he was.
In fact, the scientist was embroiled in lawsuits and accusations at work.
“I went full on into investigator mode as I knew he wouldn’t tell me the truth,” Benita said.
She found out exactly what he’d lied about – and she said it was extensive.
He had told her, as personal surgeon to the Pope, the leader of the Catholic church wanted to marry the couple, she explained.
“He said he was having trouble finding a priest to marry us,” she said.
“Then he said he had ‘connections’ to the Vatican. It wasn’t surprising being a surgeon in Italy.
“He [the Pope] wanted to use us as the poster couple for the Catholic church, to prove people who are divorced can get married in the Catholic church.”
But Benita’s intuition overtook her and she hired a private investigator to look into the surreal wedding.
“None of these people were coming,” Benita said she tragically discovered.
“He didn’t know Pope Francis, he wasn’t his personal doctor.”
The slip from “Prince Charming to pathological liar” took place over just two years, she said.
In July 2015 their “cat and mouse game” came to an end when she revealed to him everything she found through the private investigation.
“I put it all in a message. He responded ‘wow,'” Benita claimed.
Macchiarini ran into some legal trouble regarding his stem cell treatments with Swedish prosecutors recently appealing a sentence given to the Italian surgeon, the Associated Press reported.
He was put on trial after his patients reportedly suffered bodily harm during his experimental surgeries but he always denied any criminal wrongdoing.
ABC News reported that Macchiarini has never spoken publicly about his relationship with Benita.
Benita and Macchiarini’s wild relationship was featured in a special episode of ABC’s 20/20 on Friday.