FBI Unseals "Con Queen of Hollywood" Indictment

The Hollywood Sign
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

The indictment sheds new light on the scope of the Hollywood impersonation scam authorities allege was perpetrated by Hargobind Tahilramani, who was arrested in Manchester, England, on Nov 26.

On Thursday morning the Department of Justice and the FBI unsealed a 7-page Grand Jury indictment against Hargobind Tahilramani, 41, the so-called Con Queen of Hollywood, outlining eight federal charges including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The indictment, which dates back to early October, sheds new light on the extent of the elaborate Con Queen scam, namely the scope and range of people whose identities the Con Queen adopted. “Tahilramani and his co-conspirators would falsely claim to be, among others: well-known entertainment industry executives; individuals who worked with the entertainment industry executives; and family members of the entertainment industry executives,” the indictment states, “Tahilramani and his co-conspirators would falsely claim that they wanted to hire the entertainment industry professionals to work on films and other projects purportedly based in Indonesia, when in fact, no such films or other projects existed.”

Early in the morning on Nov. 26, police in the northern English city of Manchester arrested  Tahilramani, an Indonesian man and convicted felon. The arrest ended a years-long investigation by agents from the FBI and private investigators from K2 Integrity (formerly K2 Intelligence), a New York-based corporate security firm.

"The defendant has been arrested in the United Kingdom based on a request for his provisional arrest submitted by the United States with a view towards his extradition. We will have no further comment," read a statement by the FBI.

The unnamed co-conspirators are identified as a driver and an individual who collected cash payments from people who traveled to Indonesia.

Law enforcement officials believe Tahilramani, who was going by the name of Gobind Tahil at the time of the arrest, impersonated powerful female figures, including several Hollywood notables like Amy Pascal and Kathleen Kennedy, and then used these personas to convince people building their careers in the creative arts to travel to Indonesia on the promise of work. Once there, the marks paid cash for logistical services such as driving and fixing, with the promise of reimbursement on the backend. The projects never materialized and the money vanished.

The indictment also alleges that on a few occasions Tahilramani threatened violence if people “questioned Tahilramani’s assumed identity or tried to withdraw from an agreement.” In those instances, the indictment alleges, Tahilramani would threaten to “dismember the entertainment industry professional” or send “pictures of the entertainment industry professional’s children.”

The indictment also alleges that the co-conspirators deposited the cash payments they received into “a bank account controlled by Tahilramani.”

Beginning as early as 2015 and continuing largely unimpeded for the next five years, Tahilramani allegedly lured scores of victims into a series of impersonation scams. Over time, he adapted the con to suit his needs as he expanded and diversified his roster of potential victims.At the most basic level, the scams were sophisticated catfishing operations. Highly skilled with accents and voices, Tahilramani allegedly passed himself off as several powerful female executives.

By 2017, he was impersonating former Sony chair Amy Pascal, Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy and former Paramount boss Sherry Lansing.In addition to Hollywood notables, Tahilramani also sought out highly visible people in other areas, including media, politics and international business. He duped his marks into believing he was Wendi Murdoch, the wife of Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Christine Hearst Schwarzman, the intellectual property lawyer and wife of billionaire Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman (he also briefly ran President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum).

By late last year, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down global travel, he was still luring people to Indonesia by successfully impersonating the prominent Singapore business magnate and so-called “Boss of Bond Street,” Christina Ong.

By 2016, Tahilramani had set up shop in the United Kingdom, where he attempted to reinvent himself. That year, as he was continuing to impersonate people as part of the Indonesia travel scheme, he began a secondary persuit as an Instagram influencer specializing in London food culture. Tahilramani was the host of “Purebytes,” an Instagram account which boasted over 50,000 followers by January of 2019.

On Purebytes, which had as its tagline “Every Meal Has A Story,” Tahilramani presented himself as a footloose foodie writer and adventurer who had spent his childhood between Indonesia and the United States. Tahilramani never identified himself by name, and adopted a distinct and very convincing American accent. Yet his alleged scams continued: As recently as last month, Tahilramani was continuing to convince people to send him money.

“Two years ago, we identified our subject and began building a meticulous case against one individual. Now, we have reached one incredible outcome: justice for the victims,” wrote Nicoletta Kotsianas, the K2 investigator who worked most closely on the case, in the statement.