Carley Rudd, from Maine, was scammed by the Con Queen of Hollywood
A string of new victims have come forward after a female scam artist posed as Hollywood executives to swindle thousands of dollars out of artists, photographers and Instagram influencers last year.
The scammer – dubbed the Con Queen of Hollywood – would call up independent workers in the entertainment industry and get them to fly to Indonesia for a ‘special assignment’.
There, they’d be forced to cough up thousands of dollars for fictional drivers, translators and fixers.
After going quiet for several months, the fraudster has now been posing as Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife, Wendi Deng, and targeting travel photographers.
One victim, Carley Rudd, from Maine, was approached by the email address dengmurdoch.com.
Rudd was told she’d been scouted to take part in Deng’s art exhibit ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The photographer was skeptical but says she was convinced after a phone call in which the conwoman talked in detail about her childhood experiences in China.
Rudd said: ‘We were completely drawn in by her storytelling about how between the hours of 10pm to 7am that was when the people of China whispered amongst themselves about their dreams and aspirations.
The travel photographer was told her talents were wanted for an exhibit in Beijing
‘It was these whispers that she wanted us to somehow capture through photography in the areas of Southeast Asia where Chinese communities had immigrated to.’
A contract was sent and Rudd was asked to travel to Jakarta for a meeting.
Rudd got a first-class ticket and when she arrived in Indonesia she was talked into giving an additional $1,400 to the con artist. She said the entire scam cost her $16,000.
The scam works by convincing victims to pay small amounts of money when they get to Jakarta.
The conwoman posed as Wendi Deng (pictured) and convinced Rudd to fly to Indonesia and fork out $16,000 in expenses
They’re asked to fork out up to $3,000 for tour guides, translators, travel and fixers. Reimbursements are promised, but of course they never come.
Victims say a ‘moneyman’ comes to them to collect the funds, an Indonesian riding a moped.
Investigators trying to unmask the mystery imposter say the scam has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people.
This is the initial email sent to one of the victims, which claimed they had been scouted for an exhibit ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics
Upon returning to the US, Rudd reported her story to the FBI and got in touch with investigators from the corporate security firm K2 Intelligence, based in New York.
Hundreds of other victims have come forward to say they too were duped into travelling to Indonesia to meet Deng and conned out of thousands.
Incredibly, in some instances, victims met each other while stranded in Jakarta and swapped similar stories after being conned at the same time.
Henry Wu and his girlfriend Zornitsa Shahanska, two Instagram stars who live in San Francisco, were also conned by the woman posing as Deng
Victims have been targeted in Asia, Europe and particularly in Australia. The scam has been running for about two-and-a-half years.
The scammer has also been impersonating powerful women in Hollywood to convince male actors to participate in a ‘scene’ that requires them to engage in phone sex.
Former Sony chair Amy Pascal, producer Kathleen Kennedy and Deborah Snyder, a producer married to filmmaker Zach Snyder, have all been impersonated.
Last year, K2 security said if the scammers are based in Indonesia, a few thousand from each victim is all they would need.
‘Even if they’re bringing in $300,000 a year, that’s a huge amount of money in Indonesia,’ it said.
The investigators say they believe the woman on the phone, who has uncannily managed to mimick various women, and others, is Asian due to some inflections in her voice.
They also believe because she has intimate knowledge of Hollywood and its characters that she may have previously worked in the industry herself.
The scam began by targeting makeup artists working in England, and K2 thinks the woman may have been a makeup artist herself.
While victims are being scammed, they say the woman on the phone never disappears. They are surrounded by security detail, drivers and visited regularly by the ‘moneyman’, but the phone calls do not stop.
One victim, a 27-year-old photographer who was asked to take photos in Indonesia by ‘Amy Pascal’ for an documentary, said the woman called him at least twice a day while she was swindling him.
Some victims would speak to the woman for up to hours at a time, and she would aggressively proposition some while leaving others feeling insecure and destroyed when their confusing relationship came to a sudden end.
‘I have a hard time trusting people,’ the photographer told THR. ‘She really, really messed with my head.’