July 1, 2022



Houston widow scammed out of $800K by Leonardo DiCaprio impersonator

2 min read

A Texas widow was recently caught up in a situation where she claimed she was trying to help Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio escape the Church Scientology. The woman said she would exchange letters and quick phone calls with a man who she said sounded like the actor, but in the end she would end up losing over $800,000. 

The Houston woman, given the name Denise to protect her identity, sent $813,000 of her savings to the fake DiCaprio because of a relationship that eventually became toxic and dangerous, according to a recent story from The Daily Beast. Denise told the publication that it started with a private message on Twitter in 2018 from someone she believed was DiCaprio.

“Hello, Denise,” was the first message sent, she told The Daily Beast. 

The interactions evolved into Gmail hangouts, letters, emails, and a “few rushed phone calls.” The faux DiCaprio always seemed to know where the actor was and what he was doing currently, including filming with Quentin Tarantino at one point. DiCaprio, the real one, does have a Twitter, but it is filled mostly with tweets about his environmental activism efforts. 

“We developed a terrific friendship within a couple months and he always insisted that I call him ‘Leo,’” Denise told Daily Beast.

Then he started asking for help. “Leo” would start telling stories of how he was being enslaved by the Church of Scientology, showing her a letter with the Church of Scientology letterhead at the top. That letter said that “Leo” owed the church $750,000 and he needed her help paying that off. 

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The Texas widow believed the Oscar-winning actor of The Revenant was trying to escape the Church of Scientology. 

The Texas widow believed the Oscar-winning actor of The Revenant was trying to escape the Church of Scientology. 

Theo Wargo/Hand in Hand/Getty Images

The Houston woman wasn’t particularly religious, but 2018 was two years after she lost her husband of 28 years and she loved the online interactions with “Leo.”

Denise sent $6,000 in a wire transfer to a man named Kenneth in Georgia. By the end of 2018 she had sent $256,000 to six different people. That number would only grow as “Leo” would gaslight her into sending more money. 

Denise finally reached out to Tony Ortega, the writer of the Daily Beast article. Having written about Scientology in the past, Ortega pointed out the inconsistencies in “Leo’s” claims about Scientology. 

Denise eventually reached out to the FBI as well, but didn’t reach out to the people who scammed her until after speaking with Ortega in March. The group tried to get more money out of her to return the money they took from her, but she hasn’t heard from the group since then.

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