In Italy during the 1980s, no one was more popular than Wanna Marchi when it came to selling things on television. She was called the “Queen of Teleshopping” for her seemingly remarkable persuasive abilities and for selling anything from slimming creams to lottery numbers. Netflix’s four-part docuseries titled ‘Fortune Seller: A TV Scam’ focuses on Wanna’s meteoric rise and steep fall. So, if you’re curious to find out more, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Wanna Marchi?
Wanna was born in September 1942 in Bologna, Italy. She was from a family of farmers and part of a large family of 13. As per the show, Wanna married her first husband, Raimondo Nobile, in 1961 when she was around 18 years old, and she eventually had a daughter, Stefania, and a son, Maurizio. Wanna mentioned on the show that the relationship wasn’t great over the years, and Raimondo attacked her at one point before he eventually left for good.
In 1974, Wanna worked as a cosmetician in Bologna. Apart from applying makeup on dead bodies for funerals, she would go to various salons and ply her trade with their clients. Towards the end of the 1970s, Wanna was presented with the opportunity of selling products on television. While her first two stints didn’t go too well, she got the hang of it soon after, making her a household name in Italy in the following years.
According to the show, Wanna started selling slimming cream, and her technique at the time was unorthodox but effective. She would call people out and point out how things like acne were gross. But somehow, it worked. Eventually, Stefania joined the business too, and the family began raking in the money. However, for various reasons, including bad investments, Wanna filed for bankruptcy.
But Wanna and Stefania bounced back by collaborating with another businessman before striking out on their own. In May 1996, Wanna and Stefania founded Ascié along with Mário Pacheco Do Nascimento, a charismatic Brazilian who later called himself the “Master of Life.” The trio then began pivoting to other products. As per the show, they sold horoscopes and even lottery numbers, claiming Mario knew them.
Wanna, Stefania, and Mario’s customers were primarily older, retired women who were often convinced to buy things like an amulet or rituals. The group claimed that these products would cure things like drug addiction, tumors, or other sicknesses when in reality, none of that happened. The investigation later revealed a pattern of telephone operators trying to get the customers to keep buying products. When they would change their mind about paying, the authorities stated that Wanna would insult them and the operators would threaten them with bad things.
Where is Wanna Marchi Today?
In November 2001, Striscia la Notizia, an Italian television program, broadcasted their report on Ascié’s business practices after a sting operation of sorts, leading the financial police in Italy to look into the firm. The investigators mentioned that Wanna and her team defrauded over 300,000 customers, making over 33 million Euros in profits in five years. The prosecution stated that Wanna and her daughter preyed on others’ misfortune and desperation. Wanna was arrested with her partner, Francesco Campana, and Stefania in January 2002.
The high-profile trial began in May 2004, and at the end of it, Wanna was found guilty of defrauding several customers and profiting from the TV sales. As per the show, in May 2006, she was sentenced to 10 years behind bars. But in March 2009, Wanna’s sentence was reduced to nine years and six months after an appeal. After serving half her sentence, she was allowed to leave the prison daily to work at a cafe run by Stefania’s then-partner.
In October 2012, Wanna was released from prison after serving about six years behind bars. Wanna and Stefania have been in the news intermittently since then; In December 2017, Wanna was tapped to teach a course to aspiring salespeople at an institute. However, the institute ultimately chose not to have her or Stefania after experiencing backlash from the public. Wanna later tried her hand at food blogging as well, and the mother and daughter duo appeared on TV for a marathon show in September 2021. Wanna currently splits her time between Milan, Italy, and Albania and lives with Stefania.
Read More: Where is Stefania Nobile Now?