Tahilramani, 41, is wanted in the US to face allegations of conspiracy to commit fraud and aggravated identity theft as part of the £1.5 million scam.
Well-known figures in the entertainment industry allegedly impersonated for financial gain included Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch’s former wife; Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, and Sherry Lansing, former chief executive of Paramount Pictures and president of production at 20th Century Fox. Tahilramani, an Indonesian who moved to the UK five years ago, is accused of inducing his victims to pay him for facilitating non-existent work on location in Indonesia.
Court documents filed in California state that he would “use fake accents and alter his voice to sound like a woman” to approach his victims with offers of lucrative jobs, instructing them to travel to the south-east Asian country for location scouting, research and drafting screenplays”. However, on arrival they were allegedly persuaded by Tahilramani and his co-conspirators to hand over further sums to meet expenses “incurred” for the bogus projects, such as air fares and photography permits.
If they complained or voiced doubts, Tahilramani would allegedly threaten to “dismember” the victim, the court documents state.
Tahilramani was arrested by police at a hotel in Manchester in the early hours of Nov 26 2020 after a year-long investigation by the FBI, assisted by K2 Integrity, a corporate intelligence firm.
Nicoletta Kotsianas, K2 Integrity’s New York-based lead investigator in the case, said the British victims included “a lot of actors, security staff – including some with a military background working in security for high net worth individuals – stunt men and chefs. It was across the board”.
The scam began in early 2013, continuing into 2020, despite the imposition of pandemic travel bans, as victims were asked instead to purchase non-existent training videos.