How Genevieve Sanders assumed the make believe identity of a French noble woman, Genevieve Marie De Montremare and nearly got away with it.
Genevieve Sanders a woman born in Burbank, California posing as nobility has become the feature of an ABC News 20/20 story after the woman adopted the identity of a flamboyant Frenchwoman by the name of Genevieve Marie De Montremare until she eventually got caught out and embroiled in a lawsuit.
Yet the reality of Genevieve Sanders was anything but the one she portended as she went to live her new found extravagant lifestyle with her by then second husband in tow.
Unbeknownst to her new cache of society friends, the self proclaimed noble diva was the product of far more humbler origins.
Notes a report via fresnobee first published in 2011, ‘Genevieve Sanders was a Valley kid through and through.’
The daughter of a Tulare County supervisor, whose father, Bill Sanders married the future mayor of Lindsay, Sanders studied psychology before working as a waitress in Fresno and eventually getting married. Along the way at age 24, Genevieve Sanders was even crowned the National Raisin Queen.
It is then by the early 90’s with her esteemed doctor husband in tow, Dr. Michael Weilert, Sanders concocted her new identity.
The woman proclaimed herself to be born in France, who’d been brought up on estates across Europe and who held multiple university degrees known worldwide for her work in horse genetics. She was a recognized authority on the Friesian breed, and the horse-judging events on her Clovis ranch drew well-to-do horse owners from far and wide.
Noted a report from the mercurynews published in 2012: ‘Over the years, she told people that her family had been breeding horses for 1,000 years.’
Not even her closest friends could have suspected it was all a ruse, suspected that even her French accent was made up.
And Genevieve Sanders aka Genevieve Marie de Montremare may have gotten away with it had her husband, a prominent Fresno doctor hadn’t faked her death in 2007.
Notes the fresnobee in a report that originally appeared in 2011: Dr. Michael Weilert, 60, is director of pathology and clinical laboratories for Community Regional Medical Centers and a founding member of Pathology Associates in Clovis. He acknowledges that he told friends his wife — now 48 — had died after a long illness. He said he did it to protect her privacy because she is gravely ill.
The couple’s secrets soon become the intrigue of a lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court. A couple who paid $2.3 million for a horse ranch the Weilerts owned in Parlier say the faked death was a real-estate fraud that enabled the doctor to trick them into paying too much.
The Weilerts, however, contend they sold the ranch ‘as is,’ insisting they told the Orange County buyers, Brian Gwartz and his wife, Cheryl Skigin that they should investigate the property before they bought it.
Yet the buyers weren’t the only ones fooled.
Equestrian magazine, a national publication, published an article in 2005 describing de Montremare’s genetics degree and her French heritage.
Kim Miller the reporter who went on to write a glowing account while conceding she never met de Montremare said nevertheless she had talked to the ‘noble woman’ on the telephone for two hours.
‘She was very interesting,’ Miller said. ‘I liked her a lot.’
And the International Friesian Show Horse Association which de Montremare founded gave out a memorial trophy in her honor in 2008 and 2009 posthumously after her death.
‘A lot of people were fooled by her,’ said Gareth Selwood, the organization’s president. ‘I’m sure one day it will be a movie of the week.’
If not at least the feature of a probing documentary…
In reality rather than being the doyen of European aristocracy, Sanders grew up just 60 miles away from Fresno in Lindsay, where her father served on the Board of Supervisors for Tulare County and her stepmom became the mayor, where she was born in 1962.
Sanders was a waitress when she married her first husband Gary Hoffman, a psychology professor at the time.
It soon dawned on Sanders she could get better tips by adopting a French accent, even if the ruse ultimately cost her her first marriage.
Hoffman said: ‘At first, I thought it was kind of funny….But in the end, it was very much estranging, and I started to take it as a bit of a slap in the face because it struck me as just over the top.’
The couple divorced in 1990 and less than six months later, Sanders petitioned for her name to be legally changed to Genevieve Marie de Montremare. To be sure, Genevieve Sanders was in the midst of re inventing herself and how, having realized that perception sometimes carried more weight than reality.
Jury said Dr Weilert and wife Genevieve de Montremare liable for punitive damages, saying there was clear n convincing evidence of fraud
— pablo lopez (@beecourts) October 25, 2012
— Leah (@LeahDaisyD) November 17, 2012
In 1991, the woman married Weilert, and the two had a daughter, eventually settling down in a home they purchased for $1.6million.
Neighbors and members of the Friesian community marveled at the couple’s beautiful home, lavishly catered lunches, and perceived wealth.
But friends said she was reclusive, appearing with an IV when she was spotted around town, while others, like Friesian breeder Nina Miller, said de Montremare could wield her influence in damaging ways, ABC’s 20/20 reported.
De Montremare eventually spread word of her failing health, revealing that she needed heart surgery before Weilert told friends his wife was in a coma, the result of leukemia.
Her ‘death’ was pronounced on November 30, 2007, and Weilert even contributed to her obituary, which called her the ‘Matriarch of the Friesian community’.
Weilert had explained at the time that the property was a ‘sad reminder of his loss’, as he strived to offload the couple’s property to Cheryl Skigin and husband Brian Gwartz.
De Montremare had previously bragged that her family had a long legacy of breeding horses, and her death was a way to capitalize on her superstar status in the equestrian community, Skigin and Gwartz’s attorney alleged.
Her faked death was a way to leverage a higher selling price to Skigin and Gwartz, who were also horse enthusiasts, attorney David Spitzer said in court documents.
The home eventually sold for $2.3million, until the new homeowners realized their purchase came with structural problems that would cost $800,000 to fix.
They also realized the deed to the property included de Montremare’s signature, which was dated four months after her death.
‘I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t breathe for a second. It was just unbelievable,’ Gwartz told ABC’s 20/20.
Skigin added: ‘We thought the deed was forged, and then we got a hold of the notary, found out the deed was not forged because he remembered meeting Genevieve de Montremare. You know, it was just unbelievable.’
Weilert eventually admitted in court that he faked his wife’s death as she battles a real medical condition, but he also argued Skigin and Gwartz purchased the property ‘as is’.
Skigin and Gwartz eventually won the lawsuit and received $1.5million in damages.
De Montremare and Weilert now live in Clovis, where she told 20/20 she struggles with ‘punishing’ health issues.
A March 2016 report via abc told of added new misery for the couple when the state medical board punished Dr. Michael Weilert for ‘his part a trail of lies about his wife and his work.’
Punishment which led to Genevieve Sanders’ husband being ousted as a lab director at Community Regional Medical Center, where he faked the existence of patients in order to procure prescription pills along with three years of probation, and having to take a professional ethics course,
Noted the plaintiff’s lawyer after the real estate trial in 2012: ‘One of the ironies of this case is that Genevieve de Montremare actually developed a certain expertise in horse breeding,’
‘Had she simply been honest and forthright about whom she was she might have actually done well in that area. But we will never know.’
Weilert previously told the Bee: ‘The Genevieve that used to be with me is gone. I’m facing the loss of a whole lifestyle and the whole existence that I previously enjoyed.’