Former model Xiao Dong Mei earned recognition in the mid-90’s as a member of Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti’s exclusive circle. Nearly two decades later, she’s earning a different kind of fame: The Chinese catwalker is under house arrest after Italian police accused her of money laundering. On Tuesday, they arrested Dong Mei and husband Federico Di Lauro as they lounged on their 56-foot yacht in Ponza, Italy.
The 42-year-old model was once among fashion’s elite, traveling with Biagiotti to Russia for a four-day sartorial spectacle that included a fashion show at the Kremlin — an unprecedented event in Moscow for a Western designer. After retiring from the catwalk, she turned to Italian television as a game show host and showgirl.
Her husband, a 47-year-old Italian accountant, has been accused of a variety of offenses, though he’s been quickly dubbed “The Madoff of Parioli” for the most prominent of his charges, a Ponzi scheme he collaborated upon with two ex-bankers.
Dong Mei defended Di Lauro in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Thursday, claiming that he was innocent.
[Editor’s note: Can’t help but point out that she was arrested for a ponzi scheme while in a place called Ponza. When in Rome, etc. Ohhhh yeah.]