Suspected Hollywood 'Con Queen' arrested in UK

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An Indonesian man suspected of being the "Con Queen of Hollywood", a figure who allegedly impersonated female executives to defraud aspiring stars, has appeared in court in London.

Hargobind Tahilramani, 41, is alleged to have swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars out of hopeful actors.

The FBI is investigating the alleged scam, which it said began in 2013.

Mr Tahilramani was recently arrested in the UK. The US has made a provisional application for his extradition.

The application is on the grounds of aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and a full extradition request is expected in January.

At Friday's hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, District Judge David Robinson said there were substantial grounds to believe Mr Tahilramani would fail to surrender to the court in future if he was granted bail, so he is being held in custody for another 28 days.

The Hollywood Reporter said Mr Tahilramani was arrested by police in Manchester last week with the assistance of private investigators from a company called K2 Integrity.

image copyrightEPA
image captionLucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy was allegedly impersonated by the suspect

Mr Tahilramani allegedly impersonated Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy, former Sony movie chief Amy Pascal and ex-Paramount boss Sherry Lansing.

He also allegedly pretended to be Wendi Murdoch, the entrepreneur, film producer and ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, along with several male movie executives.

The AFP news agency said the court documents, filed in California, showed film industry workers were "approached with offers of lucrative showbiz jobs and instructed to travel to Indonesia for tasks including location scouting, research and drafting screenplays".

Mr Tahilramani would "use fake accents and alter his voice to sound like a woman", according to the documents.

'Training videos'

When victims arrived in Indonesia, they were allegedly cheated out of US currency for upfront payments to Mr Tahilramani and his colleagues, who offered movie projects that never materialised.

If the victims "complained or expressed doubt, Tahilramani would sometimes threaten to 'dismember' them", it was claimed.

The FBI has said the alleged scam moved to "non-existent training videos" when the travel bans took effect due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jules Kroll, co-founder of K2 Integrity, said: "This started as an investigation into a single impersonation case, but it snowballed from there into an investigation into a series of impersonations."

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