The FBI is reaching out for potential victims of the Indonesia Showbiz Scam, a years-long ruse that looks to have conned people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and impersonated executives from Sony, Disney, and more.
First uncovered by the Hollywood Reporter in 2018, the scammer has impersonated several high-profile executives and industry professionals — one of the most recent being Victoria Alonso, executive vice president of production at Marvel.
According to a new piece published today by the trade, the con artist (believed to be one woman with a multitude of crafted voices and personalities) has spent years impersonating folks like Alonso, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and Spider-Man: Far From Home producer Amy Pascal.
For example, Alonso revealed that a Marvel actor had told her a stunt performer friend had been contacted by the scam artist (pretending to be Alonso) about doing stunt work for Jeremy Renner’s potential replacement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as far as we know he’s not being replaced). The scammer promises work in the film industry, spending weeks or even months building a working relationship with the latest target before inviting them to Jakarta. Once they arrive, they face a series of mounting bills, which are never reimbursed.
THR reports that this woman has targeted hundreds of people across the world, resulting in the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But that’s not the only way the scam is targeting people. According to THR:
Running parallel to the financial ploy, the Con Queen also has been luring people into sexually charged phone conversations, with no apparent financial stakes involved. To date, nearly two dozen prominent executives in Hollywood have been impersonated, including Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and former Paramount chair Sherry Lansing. Several dozen more, including up-and-coming actors, photographers, stunt performers, military veterans, makeup artists and others, have been targeted for potential sexual or monetary exploitation.
The exact reason for these phone calls isn’t discussed by the FBI or THR’s article. Actor Brandon Wengrzynek shared how he was conned into engaging in one of these phone sessions, where he was asked to perform sexually explicit roleplay he was under the impression was for an audition with Alonso. Of course, it was not really her.
“People need to understand that this is not what Marvel or I would ever do,” Alonso told THR. “It’s a horrible, horrible thing. I’ve had an unimpeachable 30-year career. That somebody is claiming I have done these things — I’ve spent many, many sleepless nights.”
Alonso first learned of the scam 10 days before the premiere of Avengers: Endgame. THR notes, “Marvel parent company Disney and lawyers from outside the company were brought in to investigate further.” The FBI started its investigation last year, following THR’s original article, but the person (or people) behind the Indonesia Showbiz Scam remains at large.
The FBI has now unveiled a website asking potential victims of the scam to come forward with their stories. In particular, they’re looking for folks who may have travelled to Indonesia on or after 2013 in pursuit of a potential job in the film industry, one that fell through. Here’s a statement from the FBI’s website:
In this ongoing transnational fraud scheme targeting U.S. citizens, victims are contacted by text, email, or phone with a lucrative job offer in the entertainment industry; victims to date have included writers, stuntpeople, make-up artists, security providers, and photographers. Victims are told the job requires travel to Indonesia, typically Jakarta, for a so-called trial run of their services.
When they arrive in Indonesia, the victims are met by a driver and are pressured into providing U.S. currency for the driver’s services. The victims are asked to continue to pay for other services and fees until the trip is completed or they realise they are the victim of a scam.