The notorious scam artist known as the Hollywood Con Queen has preyed upon aspiring members of the Hollywood community who’ve been drawn to Jakarta where they are separated from their savings. The scammer who has used the identities of respected Hollywood executives might not be able to operate under the cloak of deception much longer. Tonight in its ninth and next to last episode, the podcast Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen divulges the identity of a person the makers call a prime suspect.
We’ll leave it to the podcast to divulge the identity of the alleged perpetrator, but it’s not too much of a spoiler alert to disclose that the alleged culprit, the “Queen,” is actually a man who is of Indonesian descent, living in the UK. A master of accents with an ability to disguise his voice to sound male or female, the person has so far successfully pretended to be one of a coterie of female Hollywood moguls, and others male and female who actually work in the business. The scammer has hooked aspiring filmmakers, security consultants, physical trainers and hair and makeup personnel, who were coerced into traveling to Jakarta with promises of employment. There, they ended up fronting money for things, with a promise of reimbursement that never materialized. It sounds like a hard hook to swallow on the surface, but if you look at one of the first pieces on the scam that was published in 2018 by Deadline and featured first hand testimony from victims and near victims, the scam seem plausible and cruel in the way it preyed upon the hopes and ambitions of people who saw a chance to take a step up in the Hollywood food chain. Worse, victims led the scammer to others in their circle, when trust was built, leading to new victims. It was a scam made all the more plausible by the polished delivery of the person claiming to be a powerful Hollywood woman like Amy Pascal, Sherry Lansing, Stacey Snider or Gigi Pritzker. The actual women were horrified to learn their identities had been used for nefarious purposes. Victims were asked to sign NDAs and so they didn’t reach out to the real film folks to find out if the opportunity they’d been sold was legit.
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Podcast hosts Josh Dean and Vanessa Grigoriadis became obsessed with finding the perpetrator who, if they’ve got the right one, seems a rather sad person who was spurned by a family that is involved in the movie business in Indonesia. Here is a snippet of the scam artist pretending to be the director Doug Liman that makers of the podcast shared with Deadline, as he tries to sink the hook into an actor who cooperated with the podcast in trying to draw out the suspect. Eventually, those efforts worked. The podcast series is well worth a listen, and according to the producers, the FBI and international law enforcement will be closing in soon on the suspect.
If Tiger King made for appointment viewing, can a Con Queen series also thrive? Atlas Entertainment’s Andy Horwitz and Circle of Confusion’s Charles Mastropietro, who’ve helped with the sleuthing that went into exposing the suspect, will soon test the waters. “Since the podcast came out, there has been tremendous noise with the election and with COVID,” Horwitz said. ” We didn’t want to try packaging a TV show at a time everyone was distracted and so we let the podcast roll out, and create audience.”
The podcast has built its own momentum and has over a million downloads.
“We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of incoming calls from showrunner agents and writer’s reps, asking had we thought about turning this into a series,” Horwitz said. “We are just starting preliminary conversations with writers about what that would look like. We think there should be a documentary series as well and our goal is to try to find a home for both and in a perfect world it would be the same buyer and the same platform. Netflix did Tiger King and Amazon got the scripted series and if I’m a buyer I would take both, with a documentary creating a massive audience for a scripted show that can come six months later.”
The tenth and final episode will drop December 3, adding whatever chaos is created by naming the suspect. The hope of those involved is that some of the people who were scammed and lost money and hope can take part in the series. While the scam artist has hatched a number of bogus productions that weren’t real and produced only heartache, broken dreams and empty wallets, it would be an irony if the scammer became the catalyst for real projects populated by victims who might make back some of the money they lost.