George Clooney impersonator charged with identity theft scam

An Italian couple has been arrested in Thailand after conning investors into believing that their clothing business was endorsed by actor and filmmaker George Clooney.

Francesco Galdeli and Vanja Goffi had set up a fashion company called “GC Exclusive by George Clooney”. They had claimed to investors that Clooney was involved in the business and that clothing produced by the company would be sent for export.

The real George Clooney took legal action against the pair for fraudulently using his name back in 2010 and they were sentenced in Milan to 8 years’ imprisonment. They managed to flee Italy but were subsequently arrested in July 2014 after they were found living in Pattaya, Thailand on an expired visa. But Galdeli successfully bribed prison guards with 20,000 Thai baht to cover their escape.

Galdeli and Goffi are known to have operated a range of other scams, including advertising fake Rolex watches online and sending customers packets of salt instead. It was not until June 2019 that Interpol, in conjunction with Thai and Italian authorities, was able to catch the fraudsters for good.

This George Clooney imposter scam isn’t the first time a celebrity’s name has been used to deceive victims. In 2017, a scammer posing as Bruce Springsteen defrauded a woman in Chicago out of US$11,000 by sending her Facebook messages which stated his marriage was ending and he had lost control of his assets. The scheme started relatively small, with the victim sending the fraudster $500 in iTunes cards over a few weeks. But things quickly escalated, with “Springsteen” sending a photo of gold bullion he claimed to have located in Dubai and asking the woman to send thousands in money transfers in order to cover shipping of the bullion to the US.

While many people may like to think they would never fall for such a ploy, the US Federal Trade Commission reported that in 2018 consumers lost close to US$488 million to all types of impostor scams. Whether it’s someone famous contacting you at random, or a member from a “government agency” calling to update your bank details, it always pays to question who’s really at the other end of the line.

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