'One of the Most Elaborate Scams to Ever Hit Hollywood'

Con artists impersonate female execs and dupe victims into turning over money
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2018 9:06 AM CDT
Updated Jul 15, 2018 6:33 AM CDT
'One of the Most Elaborate Scams to Ever Hit Hollywood'
A file photo of Amy Pascal, former chair of Sony. She was one of the female executives impersonated in the scam.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

It's a con job that sounds straight out of Hollywood—and this time, that is literally true. Scott Johnson of the Hollywood Reporter reveals a bizarre international scheme in which a very talented con artist impersonates some of the film industry's top female executives and dupes people out of money after making false promises of work. The trick is that the victims are convinced to go to Indonesia to work free-lance on a project and asked to put up money to cover expenses with the promise of reimbursement later. The story begins with the tale of a photographer who spoke on the phone several times with a woman claiming to be former Sony chair Amy Pascal. "Six months and $65,000 later," the unnamed photographer "has come to understand that he was duped by one of the most elaborate scams to ever hit Hollywood," writes Johnson.

The scheme has been going on for more than two years, and other female execs impersonated include producer Gigi Pritzker, former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing, and 20th Century Fox CEO Stacey Snider. Victims generally get hit for between $5,000 and $7,000, though some have lost up to $50,000. If it sounds nuts that people would be duped into traveling to Indonesia while fronting expenses, the story explains that such arrangements aren't all that unusual for Hollywood. Plus, the woman at the center of the scheme is highly skilled—the story includes audio recordings that demonstrate her ability to use different accents. "She really, really messed with my head," says the swindled photographer, who is especially ticked that the woman kept calling even after he explained that he'd blown through his life savings. Click for the full piece. (Read more Longform stories.)

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