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18 famous faces who got scammed

Stars who got scammed

<p>ANP via Getty Images</p>

ANP via Getty Images

Scammers are rife in the world today and they've become increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to dupe people out of their hard-earned cash.

The rich and famous are also not immune when it comes to fraud, and many have lost large chunks of their fortunes over the years. From art scams to Ponzi schemes, read on to discover 18 stars who got swindled.

All dollar amounts in US dollars

Liv Tyler

<p>Sean Gallup/Getty Images for GQ</p>

Sean Gallup/Getty Images for GQ

Hollywood starlets often enjoy close relationships with skin experts to get them ready for the cameras, and Liv Tyler was no exception.

Unfortunately, Maria Gabriela Hashemipour, “skin expert to the stars”, took Tyler for a financial ride. Hashemipour kept Tyler’s credit card numbers and made purchases on the cards. Tyler’s managers eventually noticed $214,000 in charges on her credit card accounts that were not her own, the equivalent of $299,000 (£234k) in today's money.

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Hashemipour also made charges on the cards of other stars, including Anne Hathaway, Melanie Griffith, Penelope Cruz and Cher. She was ordered to pay back all the money she took from her clients, estimated to be around $1 million at the time, or $1.4 million (£1.1m) in today's money.

Jack Nicholson

<p>Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI</p>

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Actor Jack Nicholson is one of many Hollywood stars who placed their money in the wrong hands. Tod Michael Volpe was a Manhattan-based art dealer who made a fortune by helping the rich and famous build their art collections. But when Nicholson initially injected $600,000 into Volpe's art fund, the equivalent of $1.2 million (£947k) today, he didn't know that Volpe never intended to invest it properly.

Instead, Volpe sold a number of paintings and even an Aston Martin he co-owned with Nicholson without telling him, pocketing the profits for himself. In 1997, Volpe was eventually arrested for defrauding his clients out of $2.5 million ($4.9m/£3.9m in 2024 money). He received a 28-month prison sentence.

Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon

<p>s_bukley/Shutterstock</p>

s_bukley/Shutterstock

Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon were two of many multimillionaires who fell victim to one of the biggest Ponzi schemes of all time. Bernie Madoff’s notorious scam conned investors out of billions, and Sedgwick and Bacon lost an estimated $100 million in 2009, the equivalent of $146 million (£114m) in today's money.

Many victims thought their fortunes were lost forever, but after Madoff’s high-profile trial the couple reclaimed some of their money, while Madoff was sentenced to 150 years behind bars.

John Malkovich

<p>Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock</p>

Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock

The Dangerous Liaisons actor also fell for Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Things began to deteriorate for Madoff after clients requested a total of $7 billion ($10.3bn/£8.1bn today) in returns, but he only had $300 million ($439m/£344m today) left to give back.

Malkovich claimed the scam left him financially ruined, and in 2011 he went to court to try to reclaim the $2.3 million he lost, the equivalent of $3.2 million (£2.5m) in 2024 money. In November 2017 the US Department of Justice announced it would distribute $772 million ($989m/£775m today) to victims, including Malkovich.

Elie Wiesel

<p>lev radin/Shutterstock</p>

lev radin/Shutterstock

The late Nobel Peace Prize winner was hit very hard by Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Wiesel’s charity, Survivor’s Foundation for Humanity, lost $15.2 million ($22.3m/£17.5m in 2024 money), which was “substantially all” of its assets. He and his wife Marion lost their life savings.

According to Eli Wiesel, spotting problems in the scheme wasn’t easy. He claimed Madoff created a myth of exclusivity around the investment project, suggesting it was so unique and special that it had to remain a secret.

Steven Spielberg

<p>Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock</p>

Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock

Like Wiesel, Hollywood film director Stephen Spielberg was also defrauded out of his foundation's funds by Bernie Madoff. Spielberg founded  The Wunderkinder Foundation in the early 1980s and Madoff was managing around 60% of the charity's dividend and interest income by 2006.

In total, the foundation lost $340,000, around $620,000 (£490k) today, while Spielberg himself also lost a chunk of his personal savings.

Zsa Zsa Gabor

<p>Darlene Hammond/Getty Images</p>

Darlene Hammond/Getty Images

Another victim of Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme, Hungarian-American actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor and her husband Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt are reported to have lost upwards of $10 million by 2009, the equivalent of $14.6 million (£11.4m) today.

According to Gabor’s attorney Chris Fields, four of his clients were affected by the scheme, and over $35 million ($51m/£40m today) was lost in total.

Uma Thurman

<p>Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images</p>

Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Kill Bill star Uma Thurman was just one of the high-profile victims scammed by investment adviser Kenneth Starr. Using similar methods to Bernie Madoff, Starr ran a Ponzi scheme that defrauded his celebrity victims of the equivalent of around $50 million (£39m) in today's money, shifting money around multiple accounts to give the illusion that investments were performing well. In reality, he pocketed most of the cash to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Thurman accused Starr of defrauding her of $1 million ($1.4m/£1.1m today) and reportedly stormed into his office to confront him. While Starr paid her back, the incident exposed his fraudulent scheme, which also took in the likes of Al Pacino and Martin Scorsese.

Ben Stiller

<p>Antony Jones/Getty Images</p>

Antony Jones/Getty Images

Ben Stiller’s financial planner and manager Dana Giacchetto was sentenced to 57 months in prison in 2001 for looting $10 million from the accounts of famous clients, the equivalent of $17.7 million (£13.9m) in today's money.

Stiller, who considered himself to be a “hip, savvy investor” was taken for $250,000, or $440,000 (£345k) today. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon were among many other stars who fell victim to Giacchetto.

 

Sting

<p>Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock</p>

Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Even with good intentions, there’s still a possibility of losing millions. This was the case for Sting when he hired showbusiness accountant Keith Moore as his financial adviser. In a scam that lasted over 15 years, Moore manged to swindle £6.5 million without Sting’s knowledge, the equivalent of $16.6 million (£13m) today.

Hoping the singer wouldn’t notice, he opened over 100 bank accounts, stole money from Sting’s accounts and launched a series of investments, including a chain of Indian restaurants in Australia.

John McEnroe

<p>Ethan Miller/Getty Images</p>

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Tennis legend John McEnroe was duped in a high-flying $88 million art investment scam by Lawrence Salander. Adjusting for inflation, that's a staggering $129 million (£101m) sting.

The scheme lasted from 1994 to 2007, with Salander luring investors to pay for ownership shares in works of art. McEnroe lost $2 million ($2.9m/£2.3m today) after investing in a half-share in two paintings.

Robert De Niro

<p>Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Spike</p>

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Spike

King of the screen Robert De Niro also fell victim to Salander’s scam. Following the death of his painter father, De Niro was left with a large collection of art which he hoped to sell. And who better to enlist for help than Lawrence Salander?

Salander stole the sale proceeds of 12 works by the actor's father to settle his debts. The estate of De Niro's father reportedly lost $1 million ($1.5m/£1.2m today) as a result. Salander was charged with multiple counts of grand larceny and sentenced to six to 18 years in prison.

Billy Joel

<p>Debby Wong/Shutterstock</p>

Debby Wong/Shutterstock

It’s often better to keep your finances and family separate, a lesson Billy Joel learned the hard way. Joel hired his former brother-in-law Frank Weber as his manager back in the 80s, which proved to be hellish.

Joel discovered Weber had stolen millions from him and invested it without his knowledge. In 1989, Joel sued Weber for $90 million, the equivalent of $228 million (£179m) today. The subsequent court battle was expensive and lengthy, and Joel only got back $8 million ($20.2m/£15.8m today) of his lost funds.

Tiger Woods

<p>Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images</p>

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

As one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, Tiger Woods has never been short of cash. He fell victim to credit card fraud at the hands of Anthony Lamar Taylor, who easily obtained Woods’ real name, social security number and date of birth.

Taylor applied for a driver’s licence in the golfer’s real name and opened up numerous lines of credit with the stolen identity. Then the shopping spree started, with the equivalent of $30,000 (£23.5k) in today's money spent on goods and services including a luxury car and 70-inch TV.

Kiefer Sutherland

<p>Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com</p>

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Yet another Ponzi scheme victim, 24 star Kiefer Sutherland lost an $869,000 investment in a cattle scam during the late 2000s, the equivalent of around $1.2 million (£947k) today.

Fraudster Michael Wayne Carr promised bumper returns by buying cheap cattle in Mexico and selling them to American farmers for inflated prices. Carr was jailed for the fraud in 2011.

Manti Te’o

<p>Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images</p>

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Manti Te’o was Notre Dame college's hot shot linebacker and was tipped to be the next NFL superstar. However, it all came crashing down for Te’o in 2013 after he dedicated his senior football season to his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who he believed had died of cancer. In a shocking turn of events, it turns out that Kekua never existed and Te’o was the victim of a catfishing hoax by an acquaintance called Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who had pretended to be the person Te’o was talking to online.

Though innocent, there was speculation that Te’o had faked the death of his girlfriend for attention. The catfishing controversy cost him a first-round draft pick for the NFL in 2013 and millions of dollars as a result.

Noel Edmonds

<p>Clive Mason/Getty Images</p>

Clive Mason/Getty Images

In 2005, British TV star Noel Edmonds was targeted by scammers, and his media company Unique Group collapsed as a result. He claimed he was one of the victims of a £245 million ($518m/£401m in today's money) loan scam by employees of Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS).

Edmonds demanded compensation of £60 million at the time for the destruction of his business and damage to his reputation. It's believed he received just a fraction of that sum.

Cristiano Ronaldo

<p>ANP via Getty Images</p>

ANP via Getty Images

One of the most decorated footballers of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo has also built up a huge fortune over the course of his career.

However, the star was scammed out of around $320,000 (£250k) by a travel agent who he entrusted with his credit cards and pin codes. The scandal went unreported for years before coming to light in 2021 when it was revealed that Maria Silva from Portugal had been convicted of fraud in 2017. Several other Portuguese players were also victims.

Silva reportedly pulled off the scam by getting her clients to transfer cash for their travel arrangements directly to her personal account rather than the travel agency's business account. She avoided jail after agreeing to pay compensation to her former employers, who had repaid the swindled stars.

Now discover the 19 screen stars who went from riches to rags