Fire Breaks Out in Court During ‘Con Queen’ U.K. Extradition Hearing, One Person Hospitalized

Gigi Pritzker, Dana Walden, Megan Ellison
Gigi Pritzker (Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for National Geographic); Dana Walden (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Netflix); Megan Ellison (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images).

In an almost unbelievable turn of events, an extradition hearing regarding the alleged scammer known as the “Con Queen of Hollywood” was interrupted by histrionics on Wednesday before ending – for a second time – in fire.

Hargobind Tahilramani, who is accused of masterminding a million dollar scam in which he impersonated high level film execs including Gigi Pritzker, Dana Walden and Megan Ellison (pictured above, left to right), was appearing in court via video link to hear final submissions in his case against the U.S. government, who are attempting to extradite him from the U.K. to face charges in California.

After logging on from prison, where he has been in custody since he was arrested in connection with the scam in 2020, Tahilramani appeared unsettled to see a reporter from Variety was also logged on to watch the hearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court via videolink. Tahilramani asked the judge, Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring, whether Variety was allowed to attend the hearing. The judge replied in the affirmative, saying that open justice “is at the heart of everything we do.”

Tahilramani, wearing a grey sweatshirt and surrounded by notebooks, binders and what appeared to be legal textbooks, proceeded to take notes as his lawyer addressed the court, making a final submission as to why his client should not be extradited to the U.S. to face eight charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

But when the court briefly adjourned for a comfort break and the judge had left the room, Tahilramani began to grow increasingly agitated and addressed Variety directly, looking into the camera and saying: “Fuck you” repeatedly, adding “Go fuck yourself” and “You see what I’m going to do to you in America, I’m going to fuck you over.” During his outburst he also specifically mentioned Stacey Snider multiple times, the former Universal Pictures chair whom he also reportedly impersonated in the scam, saying: “Tell Stacey Snider she’s a fucking bitch and I am a Jew, I’m not Indonesian.”

During his trial, which took place in the Fall, Indonesia-born Tahilramani told the court he had converted to Judaism, although it remains unclear whether his conversion was official.

Tahilramani then gathered up his belongings and stormed out of the room that had been set aside for him in prison to video link with the court, saying he would be seeking a judicial review of the judge’s decision, which has not yet been handed down.

When the court session began again a few minutes later it was briefly delayed while the parties attempted to locate Tahilramani and confirm whether he wished to attend the remainder of the hearing. After five or so minutes, he returned with his books and continued to take notes. He did not comment on his outburst.

The U.S.’s legal representative then made his final submissions to the court for approximately 15 minutes before an alarm suddenly sounded in the courtroom and an automated message repeatedly said: “Attention please. Due to an emergency it is necessary to evacuate the building.”

A representative for the London Fire Brigade confirmed to Variety a fire broke out in the court’s basement on Wednesday lunchtime, causing 300 people to flee the building. One person was treated by an ambulance at the scene and taken to hospital.

In an extraordinary twist, it is the second time Tahilramani’s final submissions hearing has been interrupted by a fire alarm. The hearing was originally due to take place in November, a few weeks after Tahilramani’s extradition trial, but was interrupted by what Variety understands to be an alarm test. At the outset of the hearing on Wednesday, Senior District Judge Goldspring told the court, “I equally hope I don’t have a fire alarm [today]. I’ve made clear to security no matter how important it should happen after we are finished.”

As the parties and the judge fled the courtroom this afternoon, someone could be heard saying, “You couldn’t make it up.”

Tahilramani has been in custody in the U.K. for over two years as he battles the United States’ attempts to extradite him to face charges in an elaborate scheme in which he is accused of luring out film industry workers including make up artists, security and actors to Indonesia where they were persuaded to hand over large sums of cash for expenses while awaiting what they thought would be a meeting with a (usually female) top Hollywood executive about a blockbuster production.

Before the hearing was interrupted by a fire, Tahilramani’s lawyer had argued the former food blogger shouldn’t be extradited because a U.S. prison would put him at increased risk of suicide and violence from other prisoners due to his “unique characteristics,” which include “his homosexuality, his demonstrable femininity, his prior history of abuse which has affected his mental health and his histrionic personality disorder.”

The lawyer for the U.S. refuted that claim along with Tahilramani’s argument that he should be tried for the scam in the U.K., despite having only lived there for a limited time.

The alleged scammer previously told the court he had been jailed in Jakarta for making a bomb hoax threat to the U.S. embassy in Indonesia.

A judgment will be handed down at a later date.