MANCHESTER, KOMPAS.com – Police in the English city of Manchester have arrested a man identified as Indonesian national Hargobind Punjabi Tahilramani, the suspected head of a scam targeting entertainment professionals in Hollywood.
The sting, which The Hollywood Reporter noted was carried out by Manchester police and the K2 Integrity private investigation agency, capped off an international manhunt involving US, British and Indonesian law enforcers.
“[Tahilramani] has been arrested in the United Kingdom based on a request for his arrest submitted by the United States with a view towards his extradition,” AFP quoted an anonymous FBI spokesman in San Diego, California as saying.
A US court indictment in the state of California backed the Bureau’s findings.
The document showed how the 41-year-old – who is also known as Gobind Lai Tahil – swindled more than a million dollars from his victims since 2013.
His methods included “offers of lucrative showbiz jobs and instructed to travel to Indonesia for tasks, including location scouting, research and drafting screenplays,” the dossier said.
“On arrival [to Indonesia], the victims were allegedly bilked for US currency at every turn by Tahilramani and his co-conspirators, with the promised movie projects transpiring to be entirely fictional, and their expenses never reimbursed.”
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The indictment noted that he would do more than just blackmail his victims if they suspected anything amiss. “If targets complained or expressed doubt, Tahilramani would sometimes threaten to ‘dismember’ the victim,” the document stated.
Tahilramani even got past the travel bans imposed after the Covid-19 pandemic by convincing his victims to “shell out [money] for non-existing travel videos.”
Imitating Hollywood A-listers
The indictment noted that Tahilramani was a master ventriloquist who can “use fake accents and alter his voice to sound like a woman.” The dossier stated that he used his skill to imitate a number of Hollywood A-list executives.
“Among the Hollywood moguls [Tahilramani] allegedly impersonated were Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy, former Sony movie chief Amy Pascal and ex-Paramount boss Sherry Lansing.”
Tahilramani also imitated Wendi Deng, the former wife of Rupert Murdoch, and a number of male movie executives.
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Aside from actors, he was thought to scam entertainment professionals such as screenwriters, makeup artists, trainers and production crew.
US authorities sought to extradite him to the country to face charges of wire fraud, identity theft and conspiracy. K2 closed in on Tahilramani’s scam last year when it suspected that “The Hollywood Con Queen” was a man.
His feats even caught the attention of Harper Collins. The publisher has secured the book rights to the story, which will be written by former The Hollywood Reporter journalist Scott Johnson.
(Writer/Editor: Danur Lambang Pristiandaru)
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