‘Con Queen of Hollywood’ on trial over elaborate $1,000,000 scam

An Indonesian food blogger duped Hollywood executives out of millions of dollars during an elaborate, years-long scam (Picture: Central News)

A fraudster impersonated Hollywood executives to dupe victims out of $1 million by offering non-existent work in the film business, a court has heard.

Hargobind Tahilramani, 42- an Indonesian food blogger nicknamed the ‘Con Queen of Hollywood’, allegedly masterminded a long-running, elaborate scam which saw him impersonate top film executives, including producers working for The Dark Knight director .

Tahilramani was arrested following an FBI investigation on November 25, 2020 in a £60-a-night Aparthotel in , where he had allegedly claimed to be a ‘writer for Netflix’.

Representing the US, Joel Smith told Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday that Tahilramani was the ‘mastermind’ of a conspiracy to defraud more than 300 victims out of more than 1 million US dollars between 2013 and August 2020.

‘The defendant would pretend to be well-known entertainment industry executives or their representatives and promised victims non-existent work in the film industry in Indonesia,’ he said.

‘US-based victims were persuaded to at their own expense, and once there were persuaded to pay a raft of fees or expenses, again from their own pocket.’

Mr Smith said victims would be asked to pay for the cost of the driver, photography fees or ‘permits’ and told they would be reimbursed upon return to the US.

He continued to contact them by phone and text message, while his co-conspirators posed as drivers, tour operators and money collectors, he explained.

‘The monies spent by the victim were received by the defendant himself and never paid back,’ he said.

‘At its heart, this is an old-fashioned advanced fees fraud.’

Hargobind Punjabi Tahilramani was arrested by the FBI in 2020 whilst staying in a hotel in Manchester
Tahilramani lured clients to Indonesia whilst pretending to be an assistant to Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan (Picture: Getty Images)

Long believed to be a woman, Tahilramani was known to use foreign accents and altered voices to impersonate both male and female film executives from the United States, United Kingdom, and China.

He is currently fighting extradition to the US where he faces eight charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud – which each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment – and five counts of aggravated identity theft, carrying a maximum penalty of two years each.

When asked if he understood, Tahilramani, who has been based in the UK since 2016, replied: ‘Yeah the scam,’ the court heard.

New York-based screenwriter Greg Mandarano is said to have been left 80,000 US dollars out of pocket, while Casey Grey, who worked in the security industry, was allegedly duped by Tahilramani posing as Hollywood producer Gigi Pritzker.

Long thought to be female, Tahilramani offered sexual favours to potential victims whilst posing as Hollywood producer Gigi Pritzker (Picture: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The court heard he was offered a non-existent 5,000 US dollar-a-day job surveying film sets in Indonesia.

Mr Smith said: ‘The defendant, whilst pretending to be Ms Pritzker, offered sexual favours to Mr Grey, and tried to get him to send recordings of himself.’

Freelance photographer Will Strathman was emailed by Tahilramani pretending to be Hollywood executive Ms Pascal and was persuaded to travel to Indonesia to direct a Netflix travel series, the court heard.

He allegedly paid nearly £40,000 in fictional expenses over three trips between October and November 2017.

Dan Considine, based in Los Angeles, received a text message in May 2020 purportedly from Thomas Hayslip – a producer working with Nolan, who is known for films including Inception and Tenet.

The court heard he spoke to Tahilramani, who was posing as another producer, ‘Dana Walden’, who persuaded Mr Considine to send audition tapes and pay around 7,000 US dollars for martial arts training videos, in a bid to land a role in a Nolan movie.

Mr Smith told the court: ‘Mr Considine never received any videos and the audition was a sham.’

Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring will hear evidence over the next two weeks before making a decision on his extradition following final legal arguments on November 7.

Private investigation firm K2 Integrity, which worked with law enforcement agencies during the investigation, has previously described Tahilramani, who is represented by Ben Cooper KC, as the ‘con queen of Hollywood’.

The hearing continues.

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