An alleged con man dubbed ‘the Hollywood con woman’ may find sharing a cell in a US prison ‘a source of stress’, a court has heard.
Indonesian Hargobind Tahilramani, 42, is wanted in the United States for a $1.5 million scam and is fighting extradition from the United Kingdom.
Tahilramani allegedly swindled Hollywood professionals out of large sums of money by posing as show business executives and offering them movie deals, even posing as producers working for The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan.
Hargobind Tahilramani, 42, allegedly ran a scam posing as top film executives.
Others imitated by the so-called ‘catfish’ included Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy, former Sony film director Amy Pascal and former Paramount director Sherry Lansing, it is said.
In another case, Tahilramani allegedly spoke in a high-pitched voice to impersonate Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife, Wendi Deng, while luring creatives into his scheme.
He faces two counts of wire fraud, five counts of aggravated identity theft and is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
He was arrested at a £60-a-night aparthotel in Manchester on November 26, 2020 after a year-long investigation 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 at HMP Wandsworth and is resisting extradition to the US.
Neil Greenberg, a psychiatrist who examined Tahilramani, gave evidence today at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Ben Cooper, representing Mr. Tahilramani, questioned Mr. Greenberg.
‘If he was given a cellmate, is he capable of being more damaging to this defendant’s mental health?’
“It could go either way,” Mr. Greenberg responded.
Tahilramani is accused of impersonating Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng
“Sometimes his cellmates have been nice, sometimes they have been very unpleasant. This could be an additional source of stress.
Do you anticipate any difficulties you may encounter when sharing a confined space?
“Given that he has a moderate personality disorder, he is likely to irritate or cause difficulties to whomever he is with; in general, he is likely to be complicated,” the psychiatrist replied.
‘There are many risks that could arise. The person you shared with may have a hard time getting along with you.
‘He may feel the need to act to make his point. This is difficult to predict without knowing the nature of the person he would be placed with.
Cooper then asked Greenberg about the relationship Tahilramani might have with prison staff.
‘Is that capable of enhancing the psychological impact?’
“If you had mental health sensitive support staff, that would be protective. Change that to someone who isn’t interested in mental health, that would make him unsupportive and put additional stress on him.”
Mr. Cooper then asked Mr. Greenberg how Tahilramani could cope with solitary confinement.
Tahilramani is resisting extradition to the US because he wants to stand trial in the UK. A psychiatrist said sharing a cell in a US prison can be “a source of stress”
‘What would be their ability to deal with that regime?’
‘That would be difficult for him’
But Greenberg emphasized that if you had activities to keep him busy, it might be easier for him.
He likes textiles. If you had enough diversionary materials, that would reduce the risk. But it would be difficult, there is no turning back.
Tahilramani was indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of California on eight counts on October 6, 2020.
On the first count, he is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
He faces two counts of wire fraud, with the same maximum.
The five counts of aggravated identity theft he faces each carry a maximum of two years in prison.
Earlier in the trial, psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Grassian, an expert on the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement, said Tahilramani would not be able to cope in a US prison.
Giving evidence via a live link, Dr Grassian said: ‘Will he be able to get by in the same way he has been able to get by at Wandsworth? My answer is no.’
The extradition hearing continues.