Hollywood loves a good con artist story, but this one might hit a little too close to home. In this case, the victims were aspiring stars who were allegedly duped by a man impersonating top female Hollywood execs over the phone. The FBI has just announced the arrest of a suspect believed to be the "Con Queen of Hollywood." Coverage of the wild tale:
- Arrest: Authorities in Britain, acting on a request from the FBI, arrested a 41-year-old Indonesian man identified as Hargobind Tahilramani, reports AFP. He allegedly is a master of fake accents and voices.
- The con: Authorities say that Tahilramani would impersonate prominent women in the industry—including Kathleen Kennedy of Lucasfilm, former Paramount boss Sherry Lansing, producer Amy Pascal, and Wendi Deng, former wife of media magnate Rupert Murdoch—and pitch bogus projects to actors and Hollywood gig workers, who would shell out cash on the promise of being reimbursed, per Vanity Fair.
- Example: The Hollywood Reporter talks to aspiring screenwriter Gregory Mandarano, who was duped into traveling to Indonesia multiple times in 2015, thinking he was working with a rep from the legit China Film Group. Mandarano says he lost about $70,000 paying for drivers, translators, and "fixers," which he was told he'd be reimbursed for once the project got off the ground. It never did, of course.
- Podcast credit: A podcast called "Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen" dug into the case and named Tahilramani as the likely culprit last month, notes the New York Post. How? More than a year of investigative reporting, as the creators of the podcast explain in their Vanity Fair piece cited earlier.
- The suspect: You can see and hear the suspect for yourself in this Instagram video interview, starting around the 13-minute mark. In that context, he is speaking as a "foodfluencer" from London, per Vanity Fair. He apparently now lives in Manchester (though he's now facing extradition to the US) and posted in the UK under various handles.
- Future movie? That's a safe bet. AFP notes that HarperCollins already has secured the book rights to the story, with the book by Scott Johnson of the Hollywood Reporter in the works. Johnson has written extensively about the scam.
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