Police in Manchester, England, arrested 41-year-old Hargobind Tahilramani, who is said to be responsible for a long-running scam in which he posed as Hollywood celebrities, including Kathleen Kennedy and Wendy Murdoch, and invoiced potential advertisers from hundreds of thousands. dollars.
Early in the morning of November 26, police in the northern English city of Manchester arrested a man, US officials believe it is the so-called Con Queen of Hollywood. Hargobind Tahilramani, a 41-year-old Indonesian and convicted felon, was arrested near downtown Manchester, ending a long-running investigation by FBI agents and private investigators by K2 Integrity (formerly K2 Intelligence), a New York-based security corporation.
Sources who know about the investigation confirmed the arrest, but declined to discuss the matter publicly.
Law enforcement officials say Tahilramani, who was named Gobind Tahil at the time of his arrest, posed as a powerful female figure, including several Hollywood celebrities such as Amy Pascal and Kathleen Kennedy, and then used the characters to persuade people to build their careers in the creative arts to travel to Indonesia with a promise of work. Once there, the brands paid cash for logistics services such as driving and repairs, with a promise to reimburse the backend. The projects were never realized and the money disappeared.
Police caught Tahilramani during an early morning raid. The arrest was the culmination of a lengthy investigation in many jurisdictions that lasted more than a year. Tahilramani appeared before a Manchester magistrate late last week, accompanied by a government-provided lawyer. He was detained pending a decision on extradition to the United States. US authorities hope to charge him with fraud.
The FBI did not comment. K2 Integrity declined to comment on the arrest, but said:
“K2 Integrity welcomes the joint efforts of US, UK and Indonesian law enforcement agencies to work to raise the face known as the ̵
Starting in 2015 and continuing largely unhindered for the next five years, Tahilramani claims to have lured dozens of victims into a series of fraudulent incarnations. Over time, he adapts the scammer to meet his needs as he expands and diversifies his list of potential victims.
At the most basic level, fraud was a complex fishing operation. Highly skilled with accents and voices, Tahilramani is said to have presented himself as several powerful female performers. Until 2017, he introduced himself as former Sony president Amy Pascal, star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy and former Paramount boss Sherry Lansing.
In addition to Hollywood celebrities, Tahilramani is looking for highly visible people in other fields, including media, politics and international business. He deceived his characters into believing he was Wendy Murdoch, the wife of Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Christine Hearst Schwartzman, an intellectual property lawyer and the wife of Blackstone Group billionaire CEO Stephen Schwartzman (who also chairs the strategic and political forum. President Trump). Late last year, before the coronavirus pandemic stopped global travel, he was still enticing people in Indonesia by successfully posing as the prominent Singaporean business tycoon and so-called Bond Street boss Christina Ong.
As early as last month, Tahilramani continued to persuade people to send him money.
From time to time, however, Tahilramani turns his attention to Hollywood, repeatedly demonstrating deep knowledge of how the industry works and perhaps betraying the feeling of his own stifled ambitions to be a player in the entertainment world. In the past year, he has appeared on at least two dozen Hollywood names, both men and women, who have worked as producers, directors, casting agents and managers, including several figures who have worked on Marvel tent productions.
Under the guise of these well-known people, Tahilramani claims to target dozens of ordinary working people, including make-up artists, photographers, actors and stuntmen. Using the good faith of the people whose identities he presented, he persuaded many of the brands to travel to Indonesia with lavish job promises and huge budgets.
Once there, they were asked to pay for expensive car services, and many of them split significant amounts in cash – sometimes quite thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars – to pay for these elite driving services, plane tickets and other fees. , with a promise to reimburse the backend. But the promised recoveries never materialized, according to victims traveling to Indonesia for bogus projects.
Using a network of involuntary proxies on the ground who helped carry out his instructions, Tahilramani has raised a lot, if not all, of the money, officials say. US law enforcement has not yet disclosed the financial scope of the fraud.
A child of immigrants from Pakistan and Hong Kong, Tahilramani was raised in a wealthy neighborhood of Jakarta. Around the age of 18, he came to the United States, where he attended college for two years. He studied briefly at California Municipal College, participating in competitive speech and discussion, before continuing for another year at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.
While still a student, he also had problems with the law. According to public court records, Tahiramani was named in a trial in which he and several other defendants were accused of embezzling school funds. He was also booked on charges of counterfeiting checks in Las Vegas in 2001.
Back in Indonesia, in 2006, police arrested Tahilramani on charges of embezzlement and he was sentenced to several months in a prison in Chipinang, a notorious complex that housed political prisoners for decades and was convicted in the 1990s. Amnesty International after reports of prisoners being tortured. While in prison, he acquired a cell phone and made a threatening call to the US Embassy in Jakarta, which gave him extra time behind bars.
After his release from prison, Tahilramani tackled the earliest versions of what would become the Con Queen scam. By 2015, Tahilramani began posing as figures in the nascent Chinese film group, a mainland Chinese outfit that was responsible for several major productions.
One victim of this period was Gregory Mandarano, an ambitious screenwriter based in Long Island, New York. During the months beginning in the summer of 2015, Mandarano and his then-partner traveled to Indonesia six times to pursue a project that they believe has been approved – and will soon be funded – by CFG executives were in touch.
Mandarano is one of the few American victims to have seen Tahilramani in person. During her travels to Indonesia, Mandarano met many times with the man, who at the time introduced himself as the producer of a Chinese film group named Anand Sippi.
According to Mandarano, even as he and his writing partner traveled to Indonesia, ostensibly gathering material for the script, he spoke simultaneously with several different executives, men and women with whom he was associated. All of these characters may actually have been Tahilramani.
Mandarano and his family lost about $ 70,000 from the fraud in the form of driving mechanisms, translators and clamps.
In 2016 The Hollywood reporter embraced an embodiment of this early scam, which focused on several, mostly British, female make-up artists who were lured to Indonesia by a producer claiming to be connected The master, who was filming in Hong Kong at the time. Like the later victims, the make-up artists handed over money for driving services and were never reimbursed.
By 2016, Tahilramani had set up shop in the United Kingdom, where he tried to rediscover himself. That same year, while he continued to present himself to people as part of a trip to Indonesia, he began a minor career as an influencer on Instagram, specializing in food culture in London.
Tahilramani hosted Purebytes, an Instagram account that boasted more than 50,000 followers by January 2019. At Purebytes, whose slogan was “Every dish has a story,” Tahilramani introduced himself as a freelance writer and food adventurer. . his childhood between Indonesia and the United States.
The posts, mostly photos, but also some videos, were typical of the food world on Instagram – luxuriously captured images of dishes in some of the UK’s finest restaurants. In his posts, he shared excerpts from the high-quality food life, dotted with anecdotes about his love life, his relationship with his parents and his travels around the culinary scene in London.
At Purebytes, Tahilramani never identified by name and adopted a distinct and very convincing American accent. He promotes restaurants, jokes about his sexual escapades with attractive men, and confides to fans about his alleged difficulties with life-threatening illnesses, including pancreatic cancer. He also sometimes engaged in public feuds with public relations firms, other influential people, and the occasional restaurant or cook.
Nicoleta Kotsianas, the K2 investigator working most closely on the case, wrote: “Two years ago, we identified our subject and began building a thorough case against one person. We have now come to an incredible result: justice for the victims. “