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Con Artist Swindles Hollywood Hopefuls by Claiming to be Bigwig Producer

CC0 / / The Hollywood Sign located in Los Angeles, California
The Hollywood Sign located in Los Angeles, California - Sputnik International
An unidentified con artist has robbed hundreds of Hollywood aspirants out of thousands of dollars by impersonating some of the film industry’s top female executives.

According to a July 11 exclusive report by Hollywood Reporter, Amy Pascal, former co-chair of Sony Entertainment; Kathleen Kennedy, producer of the 1982 film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and the Jurassic Park franchise; and Stacey Snider, CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film, are among some of the high-profile female producers being impersonated in one of Hollywood's most elaborate schemes.

The Hollywood Reporter obtained access to two audio recordings of the imposter's voice, in which a woman can be heard attempting to scam makeup artists in the UK in 2015 and 2016. In one of the tapes, she speaks in an American accent, scolding her victim's agent about a missed flight. In the second recording, the imposter showcases an excellent British accent.

​The con artist often tricks Hollywood newcomers into fronting a few thousand dollars for food and tour guide expenses in exchange for being flown to Indonesia for work. Investigators at the outlet speculate that the woman, believed to be the only impersonator involved in the scheme, has already duped people out of around $300,000 over two and a half years.

One of the victims of the scam, a 27-year-old freelance documentary photographer who shot for several prestigious newspaper and magazines, told Hollywood Reporter that he received an email signed by "Amy Pascal" in 2017.

​In the email, Pascal — or so he thought at the time — asked him whether he would be interested in traveling in Indonesia to work on some short documentary films. The next day, he spoke on phone to the impersonator, who demonstrated intimate knowledge of his corporate clients.

"You wouldn't know these things unless you dealt with these people in very specific ways," the photographer recently told the Hollywood Reporter. "This gave her immediate credibility."

The impersonator told the photographer to pay in advance for the cost of airfare, drivers and food and reassured him that she would reimburse him for all the expenses incurred. According to the Hollywood Reporter, such financial arrangements are not uncommon for those working in creative industries. Six months and $65,000 later, the photographer realized that he had been duped by a shrewd imposter.

The imposter has impersonated so many high-profile producers that New-York based K2 Intelligence, an investigative, compliance and cyber defenses services firm, is currently working to track her down.

Many victims of the ploy from Europe, the US and the UK are tricked into believing that they are working with big-shot female executives, such former Paramount CEO Sherry Lansing.

"This is such a terrible thing — I was shocked," Lansing recently told the Hollywood Reporter. 

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"The people being impersonated are a who's who of Hollywood, as well as high-net-worth individuals in New York," Nicoletta Kotsianas, a K2 Intelligence investigator told the Hollywood Reporter. 

"There is an important element of social engineering going on with these victims," said Snezana Gebauer, K2's head of investigations and disputes practices, who is also working on the case.

"They know everything about their victims' personal lives and use the necessary pressure points, and they use publicly available information about the executives they are impersonating."

"I started getting calls from my agents and managers, friends, and friends of friends — they were all hearing from a fake Lesli Linka Glatter," American film and television director Linka Glatter, who was impersonated several times, told the Hollywood Reporter. "And they would want to know: Am I doing this project? What's the deal? It was horrifying." 

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"It's horribly upsetting that someone is making promises and behaving badly in your name," Glatter added. "It would go quiet, and I would think it was over, and then suddenly it would start all over again."

Although the impersonator's identity is still unknown, she is believed to be Asian, due to her diction. Investigators also believe that the woman might have young children, because she has been heard telling children to behave while on the phone with victims. In addition, because the scam originally targeted UK makeup artists, the investigators speculate that the imposter might be a former Hollywood makeup artist with knowledge of the industry.

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