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Someone Is Conning Film Industry Workers Into Coming to Indonesia

The ‘Hollywood Con Queen’ is duping American and European film industry workers with enticing deals, conning victims of thousands of dollars.

by Ikhwan Hastanto; translated by Jade Poa
19 July 2019, 2:35am

Collage by VICE. Photos by Shutterstock

A transnational scammer impersonating the who’s who of Hollywood has the FBI scratching its head. Since 2013, she has consistently conned hundreds of mostly film industry workers by phone and email. Her modus operandi is always the same: she promises victims a hefty pay, has them fly out to Indonesia, then gradually takes their money. Screenwriters, actors, stunt actors, makeup artists, photographers, Instagram models, influencers, and ex-military members have all been targets.

Now, people are calling her the “Hollywood Con Queen.” She’s scammed so many people that the FBI created a special page for victims to file complaints. They’ve also issued a travel warning to those planning to visit Indonesia for film work.

“Please be advised this is an ongoing scam, and individuals who have plans to travel to Indonesia for a job opportunity in the entertainment industry should perform additional research and proceed with caution,” the FBI page warns.

The perpetrator claims to be a Hollywood big shot, impersonating high profile industry professionals like Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm; Victoria Alonso, Marvel exec; Amy Pascal, former Sony Pictures official; Wendi Deng Murdoch, film producer; Sarah Finn, Marvel casting director; Sherry Lansing, former Paramount exec; Stacey Snider, CEO of 20th Century Fox; and Lesli Linka Glatter, director and producer.

She charms victims into collaborating on an ongoing film project. After striking a deal, she asks them to travel on their own dime to Indonesia, where the project is supposedly being held. Since this is common in the film industry, victims oblige with the promise of reimbursement.

Once they get to Indonesia, a local driver picks them up at the airport, sometimes accompanied by an interpreter. Both ask for thousands of dollars upfront to be used for the victim’s accommodation, plus an additional fee for their respective services. After that, the two accomplices disappear.

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THE DRIVER SENT TO PICK CARLEY RUDD UP AT SOEKARNO-HATTA AIRPORT, CENGKARENG. RUDD IS ONE OF MANY VICTIMS OF AN ONGOING SCAM IN INDONESIA. PHOTO FROM RUDD’S PRIVATE ARCHIVE OBTAINED BY VICE AUSTRALIA

The conwoman’s skills lie in her ability to convincingly pose as various industry higher-ups, accurately imitating accents and mannerisms. The Con Queen also does her homework on each victim’s background for leverage, but targets aren’t suspicious when she pulls up specifics on them because they believe they’re talking to an industry insider.

“She’s so convincing,” actor Brandon Wegryznek told The Hollywood Reporter. In March, the perpetrator, posing as Sarah Finn, contacted Wegrznek with an offer. He was thrilled that the casting director for Avengers and Black Panther took an interest in him. But Wegryznek had the sense to cross check the offer with his friends in the industry and quickly realized it was a scam.

“I never would have guessed because everything seemed so professional,” Wengrzynek said.

She even convinced one photographer, who realized he was being conned only six months later, to shell out US $65,000 over the course of the scam.

This ruse has been going on for years, but the FBI has only recently become involved because despite a high number of reports, the amount of loss was too small to take further action. Losses ranged from US $3,000 to $150,000.

New York private investigation firm K2 was the first to dig deeper into the scam after three unnamed Hollywood big shots, all of whom were impersonated by the Con Queen, hired the firm in 2017.

Based on their investigation, K2 believes the woman to be Asian, possibly a mother, and a former Hollywood makeup artist.

K2 says roughly 100 people have fallen victim to the scam, with each victim losing an average of US $15,000 - $20,000. Her victims are spread across Europe and the United States. Todd Hemmen, the FBI agent in charge of this case, told The New York Times that Indonesia is the only place victims are being sent.

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
Tagged:
Film
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Hollywood
indonesia
FBI
SCAM
influencer
transnational fraud