Hollywood Con Queen (2024) s01e03 Episode Script

Thank You for the Story

I wouldn't want you to follow me, please.
No, I don't want to intrude.
I really just wanted to chat with you.
I was wondering if I could
buy you a coffee?
No, please, can we get the lawyers?
I'm not in a very good state of mind.
Now I'm nervous that you know
where I live and all that and
But I promise you this.
Scott, I will tell you
everything you need to know.
No lies.
Whatever you need to know.
You wanna have a walk and talk about it?
- I would love to.
- And then
I just don't want my name
out there because I'm
a little bit sensitive.
- I understand.
- And you don't know my story.
Sir, with all due respect,
I'm really scared.
I don't want anything to happen to me now.
Please, I beg you.
I just want my version of the story,
- and I want people to know that.
- Yes.
But I need time.
I can't be forced right now.
- I understand.
- I need a space to breathe.
Who gave you my details, sir? Be honest.
It's just from
You know, from your Instagram. I
You don't know where I live?
Do you know where my house is? Or
Well, yeah. I mean, I know.
I did try to reach out.
You know, all due respect,
I did try to reach out.
I'm working on a book.
And I don't want to do this without
- Consent?
- participation.
I genuinely want to understand,
and I want to give you that opportunity.
Genuinely, I'm not
- You don't hate me?
- No, I don't.
I came over here because
I want to learn about your life.
And what happened to you.
I need my lead time if that's okay.
The only deal I have right now
is when you're back in the States,
- I want to be sure of that.
- Yeah.
I'll do a video Zoom interview
and tell you what I can.
But you don't want to do it with me here?
- Alone, no.
- Alone, no. Okay.
I'm scared.
I'm sorry.
Can I leave?
I'm just scared you'd follow me.
Okay. All right, so I'll message you on
- Instagram.
- On Instagram, yeah, yeah.
- If you don't mind, for now.
- Okay.
I hope to I really do hope
to speak to you again.
- Will you promise to think about it?
- I promise to think about it.
- Okay, you can go first.
- Here I go.
I just interviewed him.
Yeah, I'm still kinda shaky.
He was completely shocked that I had
that anybody, I think, had found him.
I mean, it was like a dam
had burst inside me.
I had freed myself to a certain extent
as a journalist.
I was no longer beholden
to the police or
I just I didn't have to wait
until he was arrested,
I didn't It was just me,
and I could just pursue him
on my own terms.
But I didn't know if he would message me.
So I flew back to Seattle.
And I just waited.
Looking back,
I think the moment he saw me
I think he did an immediate analysis
within seconds,
and probably
came to a set of conclusions
about who he thought I was
and what my weaknesses were.
At first, I was surprised that he talked,
but then, the more we spoke,
I think the clearer it became
that he did find something enjoyable
about the human connection.
Basically, every day,
he would call,
almost on the dot at 8 a.m.,
for about a month.
And I would rush upstairs and,
you know, take up my position
at the little desk in our bedroom.
By this point, the article
had been out for about two years
and his identity was still unknown
to the public.
But while I was talking to him,
a podcast revealed who he was online.
Suddenly now, he was sort of
a public figure in a way
and people knew who he was
and what he'd been up to.
And he was complaining to me
about the fallout of this.
So, one day, he brought up the fact
that this documentary filmmaker
had reached out to him
and wanted to talk.
I know you have a lot going on,
like, how are you doing?
God bless you for asking me that. I'm
I'm trying to keep it all together.
Let's just say that.
Did you always know
this day would be coming?
It was an epiphany
when all the articles came.
I'm in shock
that all that happened.
Complete, utter shock.
I've still not processed this.
That's why I'm talking.
I don't know.
Deborah Snyder, and Amy Pascal,
and Kathleen Kennedy
are women I looked up to all my life.
And that happened?
I don't know.
For once, I don't know.
But I know they want revenge.
They wanna hit me
with all these allegations.
They're allowed to.
And I'm not allowed to defend myself.
I could get my story out,
but I want it well represented
with the truth.
Because I know both of you
will verify it, and will check it.
And then there's
some sort of integrity out there,
where people would say,
"Okay, he said the truth.
So, there was something."
Other news articles, they said,
"His motivation wouldn't be money only.
There's something behind that,
that we don't know."
So, what you're doing
is you're unlocking that.
So, the closer you get to know me,
the better you know
why I'm doing what I did.
You have to understand
what people go through.
I mean, I've never been happy,
I've never had a friend.
If you had to think back
of the happiest time,
when would that be?
Yes, that would be when I was a kid.
I would watch movies.
My father, he'd watch olden day films,
so he would have a library of films.
Sound of Music, a must.
Casablanca, essential watching.
And he would ask us to watch the Oscars
because he loved Hollywood blockbusters.
But the art films as well.
I love Disney animations.
Aladdin, I loved the most,
'cause you know,
with my nose and the way I looked,
I considered myself Aladdin.
And although
I had a crush on Aladdin.
The Little Mermaid.
I remember watching it for the first time
and I was gobsmacked by Ursula.
She was this larger than life,
like, drag queen.
But what people liked in high school,
they would love the Teen Beat
and Teen Machine and 90210.
And I would go deep with Hollywood films.
I would say, The English Patient
was one of my favorite films.
That was so romantic.
I would watch Meryl Streep films.
And I remember Meryl Streep
was a master of accents.
Sophie's Choice, right?
I mean, oh, my God.
Oh, the truth. The truth.
I don't even know what is the truth.
I loved it, you know?
Because it gave you a worldview
of what the country was
and how the people spoke.
I remember watching My Fair Lady
when I was a kid, with the Cockney accent,
and being mesmerized by Audrey Hepburn
and how she, you know, put that on.
Then what did you take down
me words for?
How do I know you took me down right?
And Southern accent, for instance,
I would see Jessica Lange in Sweet Dreams,
she was playing Patsy Cline.
Oh, Mama, we're still at the airport.
But the film I loved, which I wasn't
allowed to watch when I was younger,
and an actor I love the most
that got me more into everything
was Glenn Close.
I loved her in Dangerous Liaisons.
Like, the last scene in that film
where everyone finds out that
she's the culprit, she's the conwoman,
she is the woman who's done everything,
and they boo at her.
And she goes home,
and she faces her mirror,
and she takes off her makeup.
That made me realize that
"Whoa! There's so much
you can do as an actor, eh?
There's so much worth in this job."
Did you know what you wanted
to be when you got older?
Yeah, I always wanted to write or direct
or be part of the entertainment industry.
It's the craft,
it's what people do there that excites me
and I wish I was part of it.
Harvey graduated high school in 1997
and then left Indonesia
to go to college in America.
When I first came to the US,
my father wanted first to test the waters
if I was any good at accounting.
I was ridiculously bad.
But then I was on the speech team
and I did well.
In the late '90s, Harvey
was a student at LA City College,
where he was on the competitive speech
and debate circuit.
Debaters tend to be very ambitious.
The folks who compete are people
who want to focus on performance.
We get a lot of students
who want to become actors.
From day one, Harvey wanted
to be in front of an audience.
I've won speech tournaments in the US.
Everyone accepted me
for who I was in the States.
That was the most beautiful time
because I discovered I was able
to impact people,
I was able to influence people.
I got too ambitious, but I did it.
I was introduced to Harvey
at a speech tournament.
Harvey always talked about
being somebody that was famous
and that maybe would act
or do big things.
I always thought that if he,
you know, would apply himself
that certainly he could
have some kind of success.
Harvey definitely made an impression,
first of all, because of the way he acted.
Harvey was so obsessed with us.
But, second of all,
what happened afterwards.
We were at a tournament.
We're in the final round
and I'm watching his speech
and I said, "Well, what?"
This is Marianne's speech.
Marianne was famous in the speech circuit.
While Harvey was
giving his performance,
it was, like, verbatim the same.
So I went to one of my coaches and I said,
"Harvey has stolen this speech."
Harvey ended up being disqualified.
I recall him being really embarrassed
and really upset,
and I don't remember seeing him
at a lot of tournaments
after that happened.
A month after things kind of settled down,
our coach called John and I
to meet him in his office.
And they asked us
if we had heard from Harvey lately.
And they shared
that they had received a letter
and that it was a suicide note,
and that Harvey had taken his life.
He specifically said that,
"Jennifer and John Parsi
were responsible for my suicide."
That we were really bad people
for what we had done to him,
that he was kicked out of the only
community that he ever cared about.
I was devastated.
I mean, I considered Harvey a friend.
And for him to
to say that I had something to do with
him feeling like he couldn't live anymore
was something that really, kind of,
rocked me to my core.
The next year,
in the build-up to nationals,
we start getting some emails.
The person talked
about how unfortunate it would be
if a bomb were detonated
while I was performing my speech.
"We know you're going to nationals.
We will be there.
And if you show up, we will kill you."
There was all these people kind of fussing
and talking about what we should do.
We would have someone
who was either escorting us between rooms
or sitting in our rounds to make sure
we were secure and safe.
And then, the police said that the emails
were coming from Indonesia.
And as soon as we heard it was Indonesia,
it was just, "It's Harvey!"
"Harvey's alive!
He's alive! He's not
He hasn't committed suicide."
Why would someone fake that?
You think this person is dead
and that you're to blame for their death
and all of a sudden,
not only do they reappear out of nowhere,
but they are threatening you.
He really could show up with a gun.
He really could show up with a bomb.
Who knows what he's capable of doing?
It was, like, all of this
intense energy and then
We made it through
the tournament unharmed,
but it was emotionally overwhelming.
With Harvey, you always knew
that he was capable
of doing something really bad.
That his interest in fame,
that his interest in being great
meant that he was willing to do anything.
In America,
I was able to showcase my talent,
and that's where I felt happiest.
Los Angeles, they call it
"The City of Broken Dreams," right?
Maybe a little part of me still hasn't
completed what I set out
my heart to do.
It wasn't a necessary
part of our investigation
to really delve too deeply
into his upbringing,
but it helped
to further understand his history
and what he had done in the past.
He called in a bomb threat in college
and he wasn't charged
with a crime for that.
But I know from public records
that he supposedly had
an established history of theft.
That's ultimately why
he left the United States when he did.
And so, it was clear that this wasn't
a one-off long running scam,
that this was a lifetime
of well-established cons.
I was just feeling really conflicted
and torn about him.
I mean, I'm very sympathetic
to the victims.
They didn't deserve losing all this money,
and those who suffered psychologically,
I feel terrible for those people.
But ultimately, I'm a journalist,
I'm doing my job,
I'm writing a book about this person,
it's my duty to do my best
to get his side of the story.
But it was this very confusing
landscape of half-truths
and warped perceptions
that I think he enjoyed perpetuating.
It was just a constant process
of navigation,
trying to, you know, figure your way
through this labyrinth of his mind.
Even if the story was kind of half true,
I wanted to hear from him.
And I had decided
that I would go to Indonesia.
Because I wanted to find out for myself
what was true and what wasn't.
In 2020,
after months and months of trying,
I finally got an email back
from Harvey's sister.
And she painted a portrait of the family,
where they'd grown up
in this nice Jakarta neighborhood.
The father had been an engineer
and taken them
all over the world on trips,
including to the US.
And she also told me about the way
that Harvey's behavior
had affected the family.
She described Harvey as a very unstable,
volatile, troubled kid.
He would have nightmares, bad nightmares,
and sometimes he would wake up screaming
and thinking that he was being attacked
or that ghosts were in the house.
He was also considered kind of an oddball
by a lot of the other kids.
He was starting to show
distinct anti-social personality traits.
According to the sister,
there came a point
where she was increasingly worried
about what was going on with him
and she asked him if he was taking drugs.
And in response
he sort of lashed out at her,
pushed her down a set of stairs.
They just didn't know what do with him.
He was sort of out of control.
Harvey claimed that his family
cut him out of a large inheritance,
which included houses in Bali and Jakarta,
and a lot of money.
And while some of that,
or maybe all of it may be true,
his sister contends that it was all due
to his misdeeds and criminal behavior.
So I would be up late nights,
like at 1 a.m. in the morning
to 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.,
and I would make phone calls
and I would just talk.
And that was the beginning
of where my life got fucked up.
Doulos was a church retreat
for conversion therapy
but through the spiritual way.
In our clinic here,
we have holistic therapy.
If somebody comes here
and they are homosexual,
do you try to turn them back
to heterosexual?
- Oh, yeah.
- Yes, of course.
Of course? Okay.
- With Hargobind
- Yeah.
- is that what you did?
- Yeah.
To cast out to cast out the demon.
I say, "In the name of Jesus,
demon, go!"
They say, "Ahh!"
He screamed loud.
He was like, "Whoa!" Like that.
So this is where the patients live?
- Yes.
- I see.
They took us to this room
where Harvey lived for six months.
As we were walking around this room,
I couldn't help but marvel
at how he went from there
to, by comparison,
pretty upscale hotel room ten years later,
impersonating these incredibly
powerful women in Hollywood.
It was just this incredible leap
through time and space
that was kind of shocking.
After the Christian institution,
I got a curfew to come home
at 8 p.m. by my sisters.
Can you believe it? A grown man.
Eight p.m.
Harvey's sister explained
that in their attempt to help him cope
with his erratic,
criminal, volatile behavior,
they tried a number of different things.
But according to her,
inevitably he would always, sort of,
return to his old patterns of behavior.
And the doctor came in and said,
"Do you know why you're here?"
And I said, "I really don't."
One day, he said,
"So, tell me, how gay are you today,
from the scale of one to ten?"
And I said, "Ten."
He added medication.
And he said, "That will help you."
This I can't process.
Why did I have to go
to a mental hospital and be punished?
And why isn't there a law for them?
Why can't they be punished too?
Why do I only have to be punished?
When I was talking to him,
the story took on the flavor of this
It was like a movie.
It was this epic story
in which he was the star.
I realized, with Harvey,
there were aspects of his character
that reminded me of the Joker.
It's a chicken or the egg thing
with the Joker.
Was the Joker a sensitive soul
whose dreams were crushed by the world
and then became a bad person
by dint of being
so tortured and persecuted
by an uncaring, unfeeling world?
Or was the Joker
pretty evil to begin with
and had that power
just unleashed by life?
And now, folks, it's time for,
"Who do you trust?"
Is there a kind of Joker-esque element
of somebody whose dreams were thwarted
and is now taking his vengeance
on the world that spurned him?
He made a big deal
about how his life was so difficult
and that whatever bad things he had done
should be seen in that context.
But a lot of his actions had to do with
this weird satisfaction that he gained
from hurting people for years and years
with such obvious glee.
You know, that's psychopathic.
Is he a psychopath?
Can you feel bad for a psychopath?
I don't know.
But the reality is lots and lots of people
grow up facing incredible hardships
and they don't go on
to become career criminals.
I keep coming back to that.
That whatever he was struggling with
really doesn't excuse any of the behavior.
Having just come out
from the mental hospital,
I started staying in hotels.
And I couldn't pay for the hotels.
My understanding is that he expected
his sisters to pay the bills.
Because I wanted my inheritance,
and I wanted it to be loud
and my sister to hear it.
I got a call from Hargobind.
And he goes,
"I have these hotel bills
that I have to pay.
Right now, I need your help.
But don't tell my sister about this
because she's not well.
She has cancer, and she's dying."
I thought, "This is so weird."
But I said to myself,
"Okay, I'm just gonna pay for it."
And then I called the relative
and I asked, "Are you okay?"
And she goes, "Yes, I'm okay."
"Are you sick?" "No, I'm not."
"Okay, I have to tell you a story."
And then I decided to go to the police.
Around 2007,
this pattern of theft caught up with him,
and he was arrested.
The result was that
he wound up going to prison.
When he was in prison,
Harvey was responsible
for this kind of absurdist scam
involving ordering food
from the Four Seasons
to the tune of something like
7,000 dollars and not paying for it,
and having it distributed
to the prison inmates
and the guards and even the warden.
And for that he was sentenced
to more time in prison.
And then at the end of that call I said,
"You're gonna be responsible
if the embassy gets boom!"
And so, after that he thought
You know, "This is a threat."
And I said,
"I hope I made my point clear.
I hope they can trace the call."
There are different versions
of the bomb threat incident.
There's Harvey's version
and then there's the version
that appears in the court record,
which I take to be the definitive account.
And I said, "You need to forget your past,
and you need to move forward,
and you need to be successful.
Find a way.
Whatever way it is, find it."
From here, where I had aspirations
of doing so many brilliant things
in the film scene in Indonesia.
I could have, but I wasn't allowed.
I wasn't allowed to be in that community.
- Is that Scott?
- Hey.
We met with Joko Anwar,
who is a celebrated
Indonesian film director.
This filmmaker, Joko Anwar,
is thriving today
talking about gay rights.
I could've been that person.
I don't want to fight them or say they're
less talented because they're not.
They are talented.
They've done things that are great.
I applaud them for it.
But does it mean I'm less talented?
Does it mean I don't get a chance too?
One day in 2013,
I heard that Michelle Sampoerna
was going to produce a movie in Indonesia.
Michelle Sampoerna is a businesswoman
and the daughter of the owner
of the biggest tobacco company
in Indonesia.
There were a lot of my actor friends
getting a casting call in Jakarta
from Michelle Sampoerna.
But they were auditioned by a middle man.
This Indian guy.
One of my friends who auditioned
in Jakarta,
he was told to take off his clothes.
And he got his picture taken,
and he got so embarrassed, and he left.
Somehow, he knew the name
of this Indian guy.
Hargobind Punjabi Tahilramani.
And then I got a text message.
It says,
"I want to help you with your career."
And I said, "Oh, okay.
So this must be Hargobind
Punjabi Tahilramani." You know?
So then I texted back,
"Thank you so much, Hargobind."
And he called me, and he was livid.
And I said, "What's wrong, Gobind?
I mean, if you want to work together,
you have to be
We have to be honest with each other."
And he just
Since that time on,
he's no longer impersonating
Michelle Sampoerna,
some Indonesian tycoon,
but Hollywood tycoon.
He used Indonesia as an exercise ground,
and now he needed a bigger ballpark.
At this point, I knew from other sources
that law enforcement
had been closing in for a while
and that they had been preparing
for an arrest for a long while
but they had been really getting
very close in recent weeks.
So I had to get as much as I could
and understand as much as I could
in this short window.
And it was both
really fascinating and interesting
to be in that dynamic with him,
but also very frustrating.
Every time I'd pressed him
a bit more on the scam,
he would sort of deflect and
we would be off on some other tangent.
I found out today
that he continues to scam people.
On Tuesday, he and I had two phone calls.
That same day, he got, like, 2,400 dollars
for these these Zoom classes.
And I'm hearing about all his life,
his stories, his past, his traumas
even as he's scamming people
on the same day,
and from the same place,
and presumably the same telephone.
Even after we handed off our case,
we stayed in touch with the FBI.
We built a rapport and
a working relationship that we were
You know, they trusted us as a partner
and they were receptive
and appreciative
of all the information that we were
we were sending their way
and the people that we were
connecting them to.
We were still plugged in
and hearing from a lot of victims
and then passing along the information.
And so, I kinda was serving as "the voice"
for a lot of those people
who were harmed by this.
And nothing's dissuading him
from what he's doing,
and so it was clear that
this was only gonna stop
with him in handcuffs.
We'd been talking on the phone
for about a month,
and he would just bombard me
with these endless tirades.
He would go off on Nicole
and just, really
go after her for, you know,
hours on end.
As time went on,
the calls just became
increasingly unhinged.
And that really was an extreme
I had not heard from him before.
I had heard many recordings
and talked to many people
and I had not heard him really engage
in that kind of way before,
so I think he sensed and he was rattled
by what was going on
and what was out of his control.
I'm just, sort of,
reaching the end of my rope.
Just He calls all the time.
Calls, you know
four or five times a day.
Keeps me on the phone for hours.
It's really hard on my family.
I almost just want him to get arrested
just to have a break.
So, something that I was doing every day
was checking his WhatsApp,
which I knew was connected
to the phone number
he had been using most recently.
And it was Thanksgiving
and I was making turkey and stuff.
And then I sat down and looked.
I noticed that his WhatsApp went inactive.
This morning, we had a
an appointment to have a phone call
and he didn't show up.
And he didn't contact me all day.
I'm pretty sure, I'm almost sure that
that he's been arrested.
Within about 48 hours,
we had confirmation
that he had been arrested
and that he was being held
for extradition to the United States.
And then with that information,
I had enough
to break the news of his arrest.
The next day, I published a follow-up
outlining the charges against him,
which included, wire fraud,
conspiracy to commit wire fraud
and identity theft.
I found out he was arrested
with the rest of the world.
And the three-plus years
that we were working on this,
the primary driver for me
was all the victims,
both, the people who were impersonated,
who had their good names tarnished by him,
and all the people who lost money
and really went along on this ride
that was really manipulative and damaging.
And it did personally affect me.
There were a lot of people
who I spent many hours on the phone with,
who were clearly working through stages
of, you know, grief and depression
as they unpacked
what they had just been through.
It's so hard to comprehend
how one single person
has had all of these individual
instances of power and manipulation
over so many people
across the world, for all of these years.
It is crazy
that even after articles
about this guy started coming out,
he kept doing it, even to me.
I think I'm naturally a trusting person
and it obviously messed that up a bit.
And it was, emotionally
one of the most extreme things
that has ever happened to me.
I don't think I ever could have predicted
that I would talk to so many people
all over the world
who were harmed by him.
He leaves a mark
on anybody he interacts with.
You know, I don't think
I'll ever have a case
that resembles this in any way again,
and that's probably okay.
I don't know
what the right outcome is for him.
Because there were periods
where I was legitimately, authentically
confused about who he was
and how I should feel about him.
And so, when I was working on the book,
I called up a psychiatrist in the UK
and I said, "Look,
I'm dealing with this con artist
who claims that he has been grappling
with bipolar disorder his whole life
and that that should be a factor
in considering his crimes."
Well, this guy who is an expert
in psychopathy said that very often,
psychopaths will use
other medical diagnoses as crutches,
as crutches, as kind of escape hatches
because it allows them to say,
"Well, you know,
all my behavior should be seen
in light of this debilitating
mental illness that I have."
But psychopaths don't have remorse.
Unfortunately, I think he displayed
a lot of those tendencies.
There was a profoundly narcissistic view
to his sense of the whole scam.
Even the fact
that he talked to me is troubling now
because it's possible that all of it,
everything, was
was planned.
For instance, like, what if,
by talking to me
and presenting himself
as so wildly erratic
and calling at all hours
of the day and the night
and going on these tangents
and talking for hours on end and
It's crazy.
So it's easy for me
to then conclude what? He's crazy.
So is that the con?
Like, he's crazy so he can't be guilty?
You know, that it is another layer
of the scam.
Everything we've been doing,
all our conversations,
everything he told me,
everything he shared with me,
everything that we're doing
here in Indonesia,
that all of this is somehow going to serve
some invisible agenda that he has.
So, much in the way that, you know,
he plotted and planned
and orchestrated these
elaborate fantasies for his victims
to bring them here, here to Indonesia.
And now, I'm sitting here
in the exact same place,
and maybe the scam is all around us.
Maybe I'm in the scam right now
and I just don't see it.
I'm stuck in here. What if I don't see it?
And what if you don't see it?
It's like all those movies
he watched as a kid.
It's all about stories.
To a certain extent, stories enclose you
and they lock you into a narrative,
but to a certain extent,
stories give you the means of escape.
There's always some new story to tell.
So, what if that's what's going on here?
And what if the story
that's gonna enable his escape
is the one that somehow we're enabling?
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