The Washington Post dispatched dozens of writers and researchers to investigate Tareq and Michaele Salahi, and discover their motivations for gatecrashing the White House. Here's a de facto guide on how to live like a billionaire for no money.

The paper started a series on the couple on Monday, with this look at the White House incident. Today the paper looks at the current slew of scandals the couple are embroiled in. The picture that emerges, perhaps unsurprisingly, is of a couple of modest means who want to live an extravagant lifestyle and will go to almost any lengths to achieve that. Pay attention, poor would-be socialites:

  • The couple's favorite trick, it seems, is to rack up huge bills from suppliers for their parties and events, and for personal items like $4000 hair extensions, then not pay. When the aggrieved person eventually resorts to suing them, they counter-sue on vaguely spurious grounds and mire the whole thing in court. If they settle, or are called upon by a judge to pay, they straight-up don't, or pay a small amount.
  • As a result of this policy, there have been 30 lawsuits against the Salahis since 2004. From the report:
  • Every courthouse clerk in the vicinity recognizes the Salahi name," said Mark Simons, a process server who delivered a summons to Tareq Salahi. Jim Jones, a detective in the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office, said the Salahis arrived at court with fanfare and in a white stretch limousine, leading onlookers to remark: "They're back!

  • Then, of course, they failed to pay their legal bills. And just found new law firms.
  • Despite their efforts to stay above water by whatever means (including returning dresses Michaele wore to events) several cars were repossessed — including Tareq's Aston Martin. One one occasion, a tow truck driver was threatened and was told a gun would be pulled if he did not cease taking the couple's Audi. That driver called 911. Only to find that Michaele had herself called 911 alleging that he had threatened them. Sound familiar?
  • They flat-out lied: they made up a polo league to sponsor their events, and pretended Land Rover and Ritz-Carlton hotels were also involved. They were not. They strongly hinted that Prince Charles was to play in a polo match they had organized. He was never invited. Michaele lied about Tareq too. She told their driver the following:
  • He's going to be appointed ambassador — he can choose what ambassadorship he wants, and he chose ambassador to Palestine.

  • There is no ambassador to Palestine.

The first part of the investigation out yesterday, looked at the couple's prior history.

  • Michaele Holt, known as 'Missy' when she was growing up in Florida and Virginia, wanted to be a model. When visits to New York agencies didn't pan out, she tried King's College, in Wilkes-Barre PA. For a year. (She still claims to have graduated.) She then worked behind the make-up counter in a Nordstrom. Her background is not wealthy.
  • Tareq Salahi was from a more illustrious family — his father was a successful vintner in Virginia, and Tareq was supposed to take over the family business; he even studied oenology at UC Davis. Tareq had a somewhat privileged upbringing on the family's idyllic vineyard, Oasis.
  • Tareq saw Micheale at a party in 2000. At the time she was new on the social circuit, but "striking and effervescent, unknown and intriguing." He was a well-known socialite, flamboyant and ambitious. And obsessed, according to a former friend of Michaele's, Rachel Harshman:
  • "He would show up everywhere he thought she would be," says Harshman. Michaele, she says, was more reserved. She "treated him like a good friend." He bought her gifts. "He started setting a lifestyle for her," Harshman says.

  • He pursued her until they married.
  • She was ambivalent about the union, says Harshman:
  • I don't think she was in love with Tareq. It was the flashy stuff. Ever since I've known her she's wanted to be this flashy person. He bought a yacht, fancy car.

  • It worked. They were married in 2003; there were 50 bridesmaids, and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy gave a speech at the wedding.
  • Tareq then, allegedly, ripped off his parents' vineyard by using it to run unsuccessful limo and events businesses. The family is sued him for $1.5m in damages in 2006, rising to $3m later. He, and this will shock you, counter-sued. A long legal battle ended in 2008 when both sides ran out of money for legal fees. The Post found the vineyard deserted now.

And then they racked up more debts (including $23,000 in unpaid advertising to... the Washington Post) and then gatecrashed the White House. And that's how we got here.