We all thirst for fortune and fame, but some people thirst a little more. For the bizarre subculture of celebrity impersonators, they go so far as to step into a famous person’s shoes. In this feature, we tell ten tales of impersonators who used their resemblance to celebrities for evil. Some of the stories are funny, but some are downright brutal. Here are 10 celebrity impersonator criminals.
Lee Moir, 2012
We don’t think we’ll ever be able to understand the allure of Justin Bieber, but millions of teenage girls all over the world would do anything for him. 34-year-old Lee Moir used that allure to trick young girls into taking explicit videos of themselves and then blackmailed them with it. Moir used the screen name “Justy Beber1” which was apparently enough to convince a 12-year-old girl that he was the real Bieber. When he threatened to post the videos she made if she didn’t get him cash money, she told the cops and they busted Moir in a sting operation.
Emma Charlton, 2010
Celebrity impersonators don’t just do actors and singers when they want to pull a scam. Meet Emma Charlton. Despite almost no physical resemblance, Charlton managed to pose as world-famous Vogue editor Anna Wintour (the inspiration for "The Devil Wears Prada") for years, stealing money from her grandmother to pay for beauty treatments and using Wintour’s reputation to get a poor schlub named Neil Lupton to agree to marry her. Thankfully he found out, and when the case was taken to court Lupton learned that Emma, under the name “Emma Golightly,” had pulled the same scam on at least five other men in the past.
Michael Johnson, 2005
Just because Michael Jackson had legal issues with underage boys doesn’t mean that his impersonator has to as well. Orange County MJ impersonator Michael Johnson was busted in 2005 by police who charged him with leading a gang of young boys in a variety of criminal pursuits, including home robberies. To join the gang, the boys needed to let Johnson, who was often featured on local media for his spot-on Michael Jackson impression, perform sex acts on them. Police believed that as many as 50 youths were involved in the ersatz King of Pop’s bizarre organization.
Michael Conley, 2012
A lot of really bizarre things happen in Florida, so it’s not out of the ordinary that a diabetic Elvis impersonator would barricade himself in a hotel room with a purported biological weapon. When cops tracked down 64-year-old Elvis impersonator Michael Conley and his son in a Fort Pierce motel on a previous warrant, Conley held up a vial of an unknown substance and threatened to break it open. He claimed the vial was full of ricin, a toxic poison that can be fatal. After a SWAT team took him down, they discovered it was just salt, and now Conley is doing the jailhouse rock.
Kerry Marshall, 2011
Let’s skip across the pond to England for this next one. You’re familiar with Katie Price, the buxom Brit with the F-cup knockers who came to fame under the pseudonym “Jordan.” One day in 2011, a tall blonde in sunglasses walked into a bank in Sleaford, claimed to be Price, and withdrew about $2,000 from her account. She came back a few days later for another $3,000 and a copy of Price’s ATM card, which she took on a spending spree. The real twist here? The woman, Kerry Marshall, was a post-operative transsexual, born a man, who was 70 pounds heavier and six inches taller than the real Price. Must have been a convincing impersonation!
Melvyn Edwards, 2012
A Bob Marley impersonator is the last guy you’d expect to perpetrate a hideously violent crime, but Melvyn Edwards obviously wasn’t truly irie. Edwards worked as a doppleganger for the famous reggae star on Caribbean cruises, but while he was away his wife Juliet went down eight dress sizes and started a close friendship with another man. When Melvyn returned, he confronted her at knifepoint and accidentally cut her throat after forcing her to have sex. He called the police and claimed to have found her body, but it didn’t take long for them to see through the story and arrest him for her murder.
Alan Young, 2011
One of the most common crimes for a celebrity impersonator is simple grift – coast on “your” fame to get civilians to buy you free stuff. One gentleman who made an entire career out of it was Alan Young, who faked it as multiple Motown songwriters of the 60s and 70s. Sure, Lamont Dozier isn’t a household name, but Young (a former sanitation worker) spent 20 years getting business owners to pick up his tab because they thought he was the guy who wrote “Baby I Need Your Loving.” Young got free meals, hotel rooms and more all over the Bay Area. He’s still at large, and has been known to fake a heart attack when his scam is exposed.
Kevin Eckenrod, 2003
You don’t have to be a household name to have an impersonator, and sometimes it works better to fake a second-string player. Case in point: Florida alcoholic Kevin Eckenrod, who has been arrested more than 60 times for pretending to be Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti. Eckenrod, who is at least a decade older than the axeman, racked up weeks worth of free lodging and food at a number of hotels in Clearwater, Florida in 2003 before being exposed. He would also swipe credit cards from women in bars who wanted to get closer to the band. When he was last arrested, he confessed to the police, saying “This is getting old, but you have to admit I do look like the guy from Creed.”
Trina Johnson-Finn, 2009
Obviously when you’re a celebrity impersonator your main source of income is tied to how well you can replicate that star’s persona. But sometimes impersonators get drunk on power and try to actually pass themselves off as the celebrity in question. Trina Johnson-Finn’s stock in trade is doing a note-perfect take on R&B diva Toni Braxton, but when she showed up to a concert in the small South American country of Suriname she was billed as Braxton, not an imposter. After just half a song, the 1,500-strong crowd rioted, throwing bottles at the stage, and Trina was tossed in jail for 104 days. Unlike the other impersonators on this list, she was actually innocent – the South American promoter had set up the scam concert and told her she was playing at a private birthday party where everybody would know she was a fake.
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Amar Clement, 2009
Here’s another Michael Jackson impersonator who turned to the criminal side. Amar Clement described himself as the “closest lookalike on the planet” to the King of Pop, and wowed audiences with his take on MJ’s classic moves. Unfortunately, celebrity impersonation doesn’t really pay all that well, so Clement branched out into bank fraud. Amar’s day job was as a teller at Britain’s NatWest Bank, where he surreptitiously gained access to accounts and used their money to buy used cars. His scam collapsed in 2009 and all the customers got their money refunded.