Entertainment & Arts

Celebrity fraud: FBI hunt for 'Con Queen of Hollywood'

Spider-Man premiere Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A vice president of Marvel, behind Spider-Man: Far From Home, has also been impersonated by the scammer

The FBI says it is searching for victims of the so-called "Con Queen of Hollywood", who has been offering bogus entertainment jobs abroad.

The perpetrator impersonated the likes of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, offering fake jobs that often require up-front payments.

According to the New York Times, about 100 victims have been spoken to, with losses of between $3,000 and $150,000.

The FBI say the scam has been going on since 2013.

In a press release, the FBI said victims, including stunt performers, writers and make-up artists, are "contacted by text, email, or phone... and are told the job requires travel to Indonesia, typically Jakarta, for a so-called trial run of their services.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jakarta was the destination for most of the victims

"When they arrive in Indonesia, the victims are met by a driver and are pressured into providing US currency for the driver's services. The victims are asked to continue to pay for other services and fees until the trip is completed or they realise they are the victim of a scam.

"The victims are not reimbursed for the cost of the travel or paid for their services while in Indonesia."

The FBI asks victims to submit a questionnaire about their experiences, in the hope of finally finding the perpetrator.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alonso described being impersonated as "a horrible, horrible thing".

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the con artist also has been leading people into sexually charged phone conversations, with no apparent financial motive.

In April, Victoria Alonso, executive vice president of production at Marvel, discovered a scammer was using her identity to conduct explicit telephone auditions with aspiring actors.

She told the Hollywood Reporter: "People need to understand that this is not what Marvel or I would ever do.

"It's a horrible, horrible thing. I've had an unimpeachable 30-year career. That somebody is claiming I have done these things - I've spent many, many sleepless nights."

Actor Brandon Wengrzynek told the trade paper that he was lured to engage in sexually explicit role-play in order to convince the con artist of his acting ability.

On that occasion, the "Con Queen" was pretending to be casting director Sarah Finn, who worked on Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther.

He said he went along with it until he found it too uncomfortable and alarm bells started ringing.

"She was absolutely convincing," Wengrzynek told Hollywood Reporter.

"It just blows my mind how professional the whole thing is."

Wengrzynek then contacted a friend to try to verify the job offer and discovered it was fake.

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