A conman who impersonated top female Hollywood executives to dupe handsome actors and others into phone sex and steal over $1 million has finally been unmasked.
And in audio exclusively obtained by DailyMail.com, the conman is heard using a fake high-pitched voice to impersonate Rupert Murdoch‘s ex-wife Wendi Deng as he allegedly attempts to lure someone into the elaborate scam.
The scammer – currently the subject of an FBI investigation – has been operating for at least five years and may have defrauded hundreds of people each out of thousands of dollars, according to new true crime podcast Chameleon.
Nicknamed the Hollywood Con Queen, the fraudster was at first believed to be a boiler room scam run by a group of women.
But private investigators and the podcast hosts now believe just one male master-impersonator, UK-based Indonesian Hargobind Punjabi Tahilramani, is allegedly behind the bizarre and complex swindle.
For years, movie industry workers have been receiving phone calls purportedly from moguls including the former chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the former chair and CEO of 20th Century Fox, and the president of Lucasfilm, offering them the opportunity of a lifetime shooting a blockbuster in Indonesia.
When they arrive in Jakarta – and after spending thousands of dollars on fake tour guides and other scam fees – they realize the movie is a sham and the phone calls were impersonations.
The scammer appeared to pick handsome, muscular men as his primary targets, and has even tricked some of them into having phone sex with him by asking them to read out a sex scene from a fake movie script, the victims told the podcast.
A conman who impersonated female Hollywood executives to dupe actors and others into phone sex and steal over $1 million has finally been unmasked. Nicknamed the Hollywood Con Queen, the fraudster was at first believed to be a boiler room scam run by a group of women. But PIs and hosts of podcast Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen believe UK-based Indonesian Hargobind Punjabi Tahilramani (pictured) is allegedly behind the swindle
Tahilramani has allegedly impersonated at least 12 Hollywood hotshots, including Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng and most recently Bourne Identity and Jumper director Doug Liman
Most recently, he allegedly impersonated Bourne Identity and Jumper director Doug Liman
But he has also targeted screenwriters, make-up artists, production crew, trainers and stuntmen.
Josh Dean, co-host of the show Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen, which revealed the alleged identity of the trickster on Thursday, told DailyMail.com the con artist may be one of the most prolific of his kind ever identified.
‘We’ve spoken to dozens of victims,’ Dean said. ‘We know hundreds have been scammed, and we’ve been told up to 1,000 people have fallen for some version of this.’
Dean said the scammer would impersonate up to three different people – an executive, an assistant and a lawyer – in one call, switching between impressions seamlessly, and provide reams of fake documents to convince his victims.
‘The con artist is such a convincing impersonator that it just seems legit to these people,’ Dean said.
‘You might think this wouldn’t work two times, but it’s worked hundreds of times. It goes back as far as 2015, maybe even 2012.’
Tahilramani, who has been using the alias Gobind Lal, is suspected of impersonating at least 12 Hollywood hotshots, including Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng; producer of 300, Watchmen, and Man of Steel Deb Snyder; Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy; Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley; former chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal; billionaire film producer Gigi Pritzker; and most recently Bourne Identity and Jumper director Doug Liman.
When news of the con got to impersonated executives in 2017, they joined forces with private investigations firm K2 and began frantically trying to find and stop the scammer.
Snyder told the podcast she was shocked to get a call from Warner Bros casting department warning her of a rumor that she was running ‘inappropriate’ phone auditions with male actors.
‘It was a two-month period, where once or twice a week, another person was being targeted,’ Snyder said on the podcast.
The scammer appeared to pick handsome, muscular men as his primary targets, and has even tricked some of them into having phone sex with him by asking them to read out a sex scene from a fake movie script, the victims told the podcast
Tahilramani allegedly impersonated producer of 300, Watchmen, and Man of Steel Deb Snyder (left) and Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley (right)
Dean said that at first, due to the huge number of victims and the wide range of impersonated female executives, investigators believed the con was a boiler room scam run by a group of women.
But evidence dug up by K2 and pieced together from phone calls recorded by the scam victims – all passed to the FBI who are investigating the case – suggests the suspect could instead be one man.
‘K2 Intelligence won’t confirm his identity, nor will the FBI. But both have identified a main suspect,’ Dean said.
‘K2 has been on this case now for three years. They’ve estimated that between $1.5 million and $2 million has been taken over the past five or six years, and that most of that has ended up in the perpetrator’s pocket.’
The podcast host said that after a year of investigating the case, he believes Tahilramani’s motivation is about more than cash.
‘There is a financial motive, but it’s way too complicated and time-intensive for it just to be about money,’ he said. ‘He seems to crave attention, and that he’s never been acknowledged for the great person he thinks he is.’
Dean said one twisted way the alleged conman toyed with his victims was manipulating them into having phone sex with him.
‘He targets handsome guys who are in really good shape, especially actors, stuntmen and trainers,’ Dean told DailyMail.com.
‘On the phone pretending to be a woman, he starts saying things like ‘How much can I trust you? I want you to make me feel safe. I’m in a bad marriage, my husband doesn’t care what I do, I have this private island and I want to meet you in Singapore.’ Basically testing the mark to see if they’ll take the bait.
‘He pushes it further and further, and ultimately it ends up in phone sex.
‘He says, ‘I want you to act in some scenes in this movie?’ He’ll send them a fake script or even make them improvise on the phone. He’ll say, ‘You and I are in an elevator going up to my hotel room and I want you to kiss me.’
Dean said one twisted way the alleged conman toyed with his victims was manipulating them into having phone sex with him. ‘He targets handsome guys who are in really good shape, especially actors, stuntmen and trainers,’ Dean told DailyMail.com
The podcast host got a break in the case when he spoke to one scam victim, a screenwriter who said he actually met the man they believe to be Tahilramani on a trip to Jakarta in 2015
‘He makes them make the kissing noises. It gets really weird. And I think quite a few men ended up being exploited into having phone sex, clearly for the scammer’s gratification.
‘That’s the most twisted part of it. There’s a control part, there’s a money part, but there’s also a sex part.’
The podcast host got a break in the case when he spoke to one scam victim, a screenwriter who said he actually met the man they believe to be Tahilramani on a trip to Jakarta in 2015.
The screenwriter told Dean he recognized the conman’s voice and pictures of him – allowing the investigators to connect the dots and identify a suspect they believe is behind the scam.
The podcast host said that after a year of investigating the case, he believes Tahilramani’s motivation is about more than cash
Dean painstakingly pieced together a picture of the alleged conman’s life, speaking to Tahilramani’s friends and associates in Indonesia, the US and the UK.
‘We’ve spoken to a lot of people who know the suspect in his real life. Many of them say he claims he was either disowned or had some kind of break with his family,’ the journalist said.
‘We believe his mother’s from Hong Kong, which is why he’s able to have a UK passport.
‘He’s an Indonesian national. He grew up somewhat privileged, went to private school in Jakarta and then college in the United States.
‘I think he dropped out and went back to Jakarta where he began a life of crime – a series of increasingly large frauds.
‘He spent time in prison, but also from prison he called in a bomb threat to the US embassy.’
Dean said it was from newspaper reports of that bomb threat that they were finally able to discover Tahilramani’s real name.
The alleged con artist is likely aged 40 or 41, and currently lives in London, where he has cultivated an innocent online persona as a food blogger reviewing the city’s restaurants – amassing 30,000 followers.
The FBI’s San Diego bureau opened an investigation into the international fraud in 2018, and Dean said he believes they have identified a suspect and that an arrest is imminent.
‘We’ve offered him a chance to respond numerous times,’ the podcaster said. ‘You’d think someone who was innocent would immediately want to call me back and say, ‘You’ve got this wrong, let me tell you my side of the story.’ But instead we’ve been met with silence.’