‘Fraudster’ dubbed ‘Con Queen of Hollywood’ after ‘$1.5M scam’ would find sharing cell ‘stressful’

An alleged fraudster dubbed ‘the Con Queen of Hollywood’ may find sharing a cell in an American prison ‘a source of stress’, a court has heard.

Indonesian man Hargobind Tahilramani, 42, is wanted in the US for a $1.5 million scam and is fighting his extradition from the UK.

Tahilramani allegedly swindled Hollywood professionals out of large sums of cash by posing as showbiz executives offering them movie deals, including pretending to be producers working for The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan.

Hargobind Tahilramani, 42, allegedly ran a scam which saw him impersonate top film executives

Others imitated by the so-called ‘catfish’ included Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy, former Sony movie chief Amy Pascal, and ex-Paramount boss Sherry Lansing, it is said.

In another instance, Tahilramani allegedly spoke in a high-pitched voice to impersonate Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng while luring creatives into his scheme.

He is facing two counts of wire fraud, five counts of aggravated identity theft and is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries the maximum of 20 years jail.

He was arrested at a £60-a-night Aparthotel in Manchester on 26 November 2020 after a year-long probe by the FBI.

Tahilramani, who is openly gay and said he came to the UK so he could live in a ‘free society’, is currently in HMP Wandsworth and is resisting extradition to the US.

Neil Greenberg, a psychiatrist who examined Tahilramani, gave evidence at Westminster Magistrates Court today.

Ben Cooper, representing Mr Tahilramani, questioned Mr Greenberg.

‘If he were given a cellmate, is it capable of being more damaging to this defendant’s mental health?’

‘It could go either way’, replied Mr Greenberg.

Tahilramani is accused of impersonating Rupert Murdoch's former wife Wendi Deng

Tahilramani is accused of impersonating Rupert Murdoch’s former wife Wendi Deng

‘Sometimes his cell mates have been okay, sometimes they have been very unpleasant. This could be an added source of stress.’

‘Do you envision any difficulties he may encounter in sharing a confined space?’

‘Given he has a moderate personality disorder he is likely to irritate or cause difficulties for whoever he is with – on balance it is likely it would be complicated,’ the psychiatrist replied.

‘There are many risks that could arise. The person he shared with may find it difficult to get on with him.

‘He may feel the need to act out to make his point. This is hard to predict without knowing the nature of the person he would be placed with.’

Mr Cooper then questioned Mr Greenberg about the relationship Tahilramani might have with prison staff.

‘Is that capable of ameliorating the psychological impact?’

‘If he had supportive staff sensitive to mental health that would be protective. Change that around to someone not interested in mental health, that would make it not supportive and would be an additional stress for him.’

Mr Cooper then asked Mr Greenberg about how Tahilramani might cope with solitary confinement.

Tahilramani is resisting extradition to the US because he wants to be tried in the UK

Tahilramani is resisting extradition to the US because he wants to be tried in the UK.  A psychiatrist said he may find sharing a cell in an American prison ‘a source of stress’

‘What would be his ability to cope with that regime?’

‘That would be difficult for him’

But Greenberg emphasized that if he had activities to keep him occupied it might be easier for him.

‘He likes textiles. If he had enough distracting materials that would reduce the risk. But it would be difficult, there’s no two ways about it.’

Tahilramani was charged by a grand jury in the Southern District of California with eight counts on 6 October 2020.

On count one he is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries the maximum of 20 years jail.

He faces two counts of wire fraud, carrying the same maximum.

The five counts of aggravated identity theft he is facing, each carry a maximum of two years imprisonment.

Earlier in the trial, Psychiatrist Dr Stuart Grassian, an expert on the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement, said Tahilramani will not be able to cope in an American prison.

Giving evidence over a live link Dr Grassian said: ‘Will he be able to cope in the same way he has been able to cope in Wandsworth? My answer is no.’

The extradition hearing continues.




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