AdvisorOne Editor at Large Bob Clark likes to say that advisors’ main job is to protect their clients from the financial services industry. While most do just that, we know that some advisors are no-goodniks. Some very wealthy people are their own worst enemies, especially if they’re new members of the 1%. Some get very bad advice, especially from managers and other hangers-on who are more interested in lining their own pockets than in growing or preserving their clients’ riches.
When con men strike, it is rare that the names of the victims register for more than a second or two as the salacious details of the crime take over. Scams are never named for the victims: Ponzi and Madoff and even Clifford Irving were all the criminals behind the deeds.
But there are those times when the victims are already well known. That’s when the victims are remembered. There is logic to the idea that celebrities would find themselves targets of con men. After all, as Willie Sutton is supposed to have said, he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.”
Celebrities these days have the money. And any itinerant scammer can get an idea of who in Hollywood might be a good mark with a quick search of the internet.
That got us at AdvisorOne wondering which celebrities have been hit by scams. The list is impressive, including actors like Robert De Niro; athletic stars like John McEnroe; and even a playwright, Neil Simon. But the star with the worst luck lost her money, and then her heart.
So we ask, Could You Have Saved These Clients? 7 Scams That Hit Celebrities Hard:
The Celebrities: Cher, Jennifer Aniston, Liv Tyler, Melanie Griffith, Anne Hathaway
The Scam: Credit card fraud
The Take: $511,000
The ladies of Hollywood need their stylists and their salon time. So it must have been particularly upsetting when facialist to the stars (yes, she was really known as a facialist) Maria Gabriela Hashemipour took advantage by ripping off credit card numbers. The con artist was undone in 2010 when the management company representing Liv Tyler saw $214,000 in unexplained charges on the actress’s account.
Evidently, testimonials from Cher and Jennifer Aniston on her website weren’t enough celebrity help for Hashemipour. Aniston has said that she stopped using Hashemipour in 2005 and her exposure was minimal. In the end, the facialist was sentenced to five years’ probation and was ordered to pay $511,000 in restitution. Scam #6
The Celebrity: Kiefer Sutherland
The Scam: Bogus cattle trading
The Take: $1.5 million
Kiefer Sutherland might be famous for bringing TV terrorists to rough justice as Jack Bauer on “24,” but that didn’t scare off the con man Michael Wayne Carr. In 2010, Carr was arrested for taking $869,000 from the actor and hundreds of thousands from others to purchase cattle in Mexico to be resold in the U.S. at a profit. The money was collected, but authorities found no evidence of any cattle being purchased.
Although his lawyers contended the lackluster economy was the culprit, Carr pleaded guilty. He was ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution. Any jail time depends on how much he is able to pay back. Scam #5
The Celebrities: Kevin Bacon and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick
The Scam: Bernie Madoff (’nuff said)
The Take: Likely in the millions
Bernie Madoff’s scam ruined many people at time of their lives when they had little chance of rebuilding. That isn’t the case for Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, marriage partners and actors. Bacon and Sedgwick lost much of their savings, although they have kept the exact amount private.
The amount was damaging enough that Bacon has been widely quoted as saying the pair have no choice but to continue working. Fortunately for Bacon, 54, and Sedgwick, 46, parts keep coming. For Madoff, of course, his only gig is doing prison time as the courts try to divvy up his assets among his victims. Scam #4
The Celebrities: Uma Thurman, Neil Simon and others
The Scam: Money manager siphons clients’ cash