Actors Who Were Scammed Out Of Millions

There's nothing quite like a rags-to-riches story, and a number of celebrities were poor before finding fame. However, the reaction is quite different when it comes to a riches-to-rags story. It may be near impossible to fathom how powerful celebrities can be duped out of millions of dollars, but the truth is that being hustled can happen to the best of us. 

Having the adoration of fans the world over does not make someone an infallible being, and there are certain unscrupulous individuals who seek to drain celebs' hard-earned cash. To put it bluntly, actors and musicians are entertainers, not fiscal experts. Consequently, they rely entirely on their accountants and financial specialists to have their best interests at heart.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for celebrities to get scammed by people whom they wholeheartedly believe they can trust. In some cases, the victims are financially exploited by their advisers. Even more horrifyingly, some get scammed by their own family members and friends, losing the confidence of those closest to them in addition to their money. Anyone would feel utterly devastated by the sheer magnitude of betrayal. 

The level of trust that these celebrities invested — for want of a better word — in their advisers was ultimately to their detriment, and they know all too well that the rich and famous are not immune to falling for elaborate ruses.

Kevin Bacon lost millions in a Ponzi scheme

We all enjoy playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but when it comes to Bacon's finances, only one man stands at the top of the pyramid: Bernie Madoff. In 2009, Bacon lost millions of dollars in Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The official sum that Bacon was scammed out of remains a mystery, but Madoff had accumulated a jaw-dropping $65 billion from duping his victims, per Reuters.

During a 2011 interview on "Piers Morgan Tonight," Bacon was asked about what he lost. "It was most of our money. I mean, it was most of our savings, you know, our retirement," he said, per CNN. He revealed that he'd been awarded partial compensation for his losses and would possibly be paid more in future. "And there's a lot of people both in that situation and in other situations who are a hell of a lot worse off than we are. So, I'd say, if anything else, it's, you know, it's gratitude," he reflected.

In an interview with The Guardian, the "Footloose" star said that the ordeal helped him realize what's most important to him in life. "It was a bad day. But pretty quickly we were able to see all the things we had as opposed to whatever we lost ... I don't think about Madoff, like, at all," he said.

Since losing millions, Bacon has starred in British TV commercials for cell phone network EE for extra cash, hopefully aiding him in recouping some of those losses.

Sting's financial adviser stole millions from him

He may be an acclaimed musician, but Sting is also an actor. Notably, he starred in the 1982 adaptation of Dennis Potter's "Brimstone and Treacle." But in the '90s, he faced his own day of reckoning when it came to his finances, which was less brimstone and treacle, more fire and brimstone. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Sting was scammed out of $9.4 million by his financial adviser, Keith Moore. Amazingly, the "Every Breath You Take" singer was completely oblivious to the fact that Moore had been embezzling from him for years. For Moore, representing Sting brought nothing but "Fields of Gold."

Moore's attorneys alleged that Sting gifted him around $929,000 to save him from financial ruin, but the singer staunchly denied this. "Mr. Moore was being paid very well, at least pounds 800,000 a year. I would not have thought I would have had to pay him a commission. That was never suggested in all our years," Sting said in court, per The Independent. The court ruled in favor of the singer, and Moore received a six-year prison sentence in 1995.

In a 1996 interview with Observer Life, the musician said that the painful experience led to the realization "that his wealth was 'not in the bank' ... but in 'my friends, my family, my love of music.'" Thankfully, the former frontman of The Police was able to recover from the fiasco, revealing that he was compensated by the bank.

Gerard Butler sued Hollywood producers for millions

The glory days of "300" are long gone for Gerard Butler. Since starring in the not entirely historically accurate blockbuster, the Scottish actor found himself in an unfortunate financial situation due to some allegedly shady producers. As Butler said in "300," "Give them nothing, but take from them everything!" Perhaps a certain Hollywood production company took this mantra a little too seriously.

In 2021, Butler claimed that he had been scammed out of $10 million by the producers of his 2013 action flick "Olympus Has Fallen," which spawned two sequels. The film grossed over $170 million, but Butler alleged that he received mere pocket change from the production. As reported by Variety, he filed a lawsuit accusing the producers of raking in millions while refusing to pay him "a penny of the grosses and profits promised to him in the parties' agreement." The suit argued that "Butler deserved "his fair share" after helping the defendants "create a highly successful movie franchise."

The lawsuit also alleged that studio executives received $8 million that was not reported and that profits were grossly understated as a means of scamming Butler out of money to which he was entitled. According to People, Butler accused the production company Nu Image Inc./Millennium Films of participating in "a comprehensive, premeditated scheme to deprive" him of the movie's profits. The company responded to his suit by arguing that it had "no merit," per Deadline. As of November 2021, the case is ongoing.

Courtney Love was allegedly swindled out of her inheritance

After a successful music career as the frontwoman of influential grunge band Hole, Courtney Love established herself as an acclaimed actor, even receiving a Golden Globe nomination in 1997 for her role in the critically lauded film "The People vs. Larry Flynt." But financially, things didn't go as smoothly for Love.

When her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, tragically died in 1994, Love inherited his estate as well as publishing rights to Nirvana's music. Because Nirvana was one of the biggest acts on the planet, Cobain had made a hefty amount of cash in his brief lifetime. But the people who handled his estate allegedly swindled Love out of millions. In 2009, her attorney at the time, Rhonda Holmes, told Page Six that Love was "looted of more than $30 million cash and up to $500 million in real estate." 

According to Holmes, former staffers drained Love's inheritance — which she was planning to give to her daughter Frances Bean — through devious means. "They would sell a piece of property to a related entity, to someone they know, and they would keep selling to make a profit," the lawyer told E!. Holmes was hired to take the accused to court, but she never filed a lawsuit, allegedly claiming that someone had "broken into her computer and erased the drafts," per The Hollywood Reporter.  

As Vulture highlights, Love has a long history of accusing others of stealing from her. It's enough to make her "Celebrity Skin" crawl.

Scarlett Johansson said Disney withheld millions

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most lucrative film franchises of all time. Overall, it has made a whopping $23 billion, per Insider. One would therefore assume that its stars are reaping the financial benefits of being a part of the superhero powerhouse. But according to one MCU star, this is simply not the case.

A month after its release, Forbes reported that "Black Widow" had raked in just under $360 million at the box office. But the film's star, Scarlett Johansson, said that she was massively underpaid for donning Natasha Romanoff's sweltering leather catsuit. She sued Disney for loss of earnings, claiming that the corporation lied to her by promising that the film would have an exclusive run in movie theaters. However, upon its release, it was also made available on the streaming service Disney+, per NBC. "Disney has enjoyed the benefits of having one of Hollywood's top actresses promote its wholly owned subscription service at no additional cost to Disney, and with the intended effect of taking money out of that actress' own pocket," her attorney wrote.

The lawsuit was ultimately settled, with sources telling Deadline that Johansson received over $40 million in compensation. Pleased with the agreement, Johansson said, "I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney. ... I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come." With a payout like that, we're hardly surprised that she hasn't cut ties with the mouse just yet.

Rihanna's accountants took millions from her

In addition to being a nine-time Grammy Award-winning musician, Rihanna is an actor whose credits include "Battleship" and "Ocean's 8." But while Rihanna has acquired her hefty net worth through a lot of work, work, work, her accountants allegedly raked in big bucks through a major financial scam that almost saw her on the brink of bankruptcy.

In 2014, a source close to the "Umbrella" singer told Page Six that the dodgy dealings of Rihanna's unscrupulous accountants nearly left her in financial ruin. This was partly due to the terrible advice they imparted to their superstar client. "The defendants advised Ms. Fenty by e-mail that purchasing a home in Los Angeles 'would be a good investment' despite knowing Ms. Fenty was experiencing financial difficulties," Rihanna's attorney said. Unbeknownst to Rihanna, the home she purchased was practically uninhabitable, and she had to sell it at a $2 million loss. Ultimately, she lost a total of $9 million from the scam.

Per Reuters, the singer's accountants were also accused of taking advantage of the fact that Rihanna was an innocent and trusting teenager when she first hired them. It was alleged that they exploited her financial naivety and grossly mismanaged her finances, charging "exorbitant" 22-percent commissions and causing her to lose millions of dollars, per The Hollywood Reporter. According to Page Six, she was offered around $10 million in an out-of-court settlement after initially suing for $35 million.

John Malkovich was scammed by Bernie Madoff

Being John Malkovich isn't always easy, particularly in the wake of the actor's colossal decline in net worth. As one of the celebs who was scammed by Bernie Madoff, Malkovich was left in financial ruin after investing in the crook's Ponzi scheme. "Everything I'd ever made was gone," he told The Guardian.

In 2010, the actor sought $2.3 million in compensation, arguing that this was the value of his investments listed in his last statement from Madoff's bogus firm, as reported by The Guardian. However, he was told that he was only entitled to receive $670,000, which is the amount that he initially deposited in his account. The scam left Malkovich in financial ruin. 

While he was left broke, Malkovich also realized the arbitrary value of money. "It ruined me financially but I don't think that matters ... You know it really is easy come, easy go," he told the Daily Mail.

Malkovich has also aid that being grifted led to the self-realization of his own privilege. For him, this was a positive experience. "In all honesty, it was a good life lesson," he reflected in a 2013 Reddit AMA. "And it also must be said that the vast majority of in the world live with nothing and with the hope of nothing their entire lives. I was lucky, as I've been my entire life. I could go back to work and make my way in the world."

Dane Cook was scammed by his brother

Once a massively popular comedian, Dane Cook has all but disappeared from the limelight in recent years. Perhaps this is due in part to the family drama in which his life has been shrouded. Being scammed by bogus investors is one thing, but being stabbed in the back by one's own family is quite another. In 2010, it was revealed that Cook was scammed out of a whopping $12 million by his half-brother and sister-in-law.

According to CNN, Darryl McCauley and his wife, Erika, embezzled the comedian for years. The former had been hired as a financial adviser and was well and truly cooking the books: Shockingly, he was transferring large amounts of Cook's money into his own accounts. "For several years, Mr. McCauley abused his position as a family member to gain Mr. Cook's trust, and stole millions of dollars for his own personal gain," said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakey. Daryl and Erika McCauley received jail sentences of six and three years, respectively.

On the "Your Mom's House" podcast, Cook spoke about the extent of the scam, which he unearthed after attempting to purchase a house in California. "I ended up talking to my brother and saying, 'I found a new business manager out here. You're gonna have a different position in the company.' ... He did not like that because he'd been sending me fake statements for maybe 10 years," he revealed, poignantly telling the hosts that his brother was once his "best friend." 

Robert De Niro lost over $1 million in an art scam

Robert De Niro has, unfortunately, faced his fair share of financial difficulties, including his most recent divorce. In April 2021, Page Six reported that it was leaving him broke. But his money woes predate his precarious prenup.

De Niro's father, who died in 1993, was a talented expressionist painter. Speaking with Forbes, De Niro described his dad as "a real honest" artist. The same cannot be said for Lawrence Salander, an art dealer who was once friends with De Niro. In 2009, the "Taxi Driver" star was taken for a ride when his father's paintings were sold without his consent. According to Reuters, Salander was behind a major New York art scam that saw him rake in $88 million. Sadly, De Niro was one of several victims of the elaborate scam, which cost him $1 million.

Testifying in 2011, De Niro expressed his disappointment in Salander, whom he had entrusted with his late father's paintings. "I wasn't watching as carefully as I probably should have," De Niro lamented, per Today. He continued, "I trusted Larry implicitly. I thought that anything that he did, it was going to be good." The actor went on to say that he began to wonder how Salander was leading such a lavish lifestyle when De Niro was not reaping the financial benefits of his own father's works. Salander received a prison sentence of up to 18 years.

Wesley Snipes says he was duped by his financial advisers

Many celebs have found themselves in severe debt due to years of unpaid taxes. But sometimes tax evasion isn't necessarily the fault of the celeb. Take Wesley Snipes, for instance. The "Blade" star was famously embroiled in a tax evasion scandal, which saw him jailed for three years in 2013. Although he was found not guilty of tax fraud, he was convicted "of failing to file a tax return," per The Guardian, and was ordered to pay the IRS $23.5 million.

Snipes maintained that he was not at fault, claiming that he was scammed by his advisers. As reported by USA Today, the actor alleged that his financial team told him he legally didn't have to pay taxes. He was indeed paying taxes up until 2000 when he began listening to the bogus advice given to him by Eddie Ray Kahn and Douglas P. Rosile, both of whom were convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy. Snipes also suggested that racism affected the outcome of his trial.

Chatting to The Guardian in 2020, Snipes stuck by his belief that he was duped by his advisers. "The law says you pay for people who are experts to manage your business affairs, yet I was included as a co-conspirator with the lawyer and the accountants. Now this is rare. Very unusual situation," he said. Asked whether he believed his conviction to be "a miscarriage of justice," Snipes replied, "Absolutely. Of course it was unfair."

Judy Garland's earnings were embezzled

Judy Garland was one of the biggest superstars of her generation, and she remains a Hollywood icon. So it should come as quite the shock that she died in debt.

Freddie Fields and David Begelman were Garland's agents. They were supposed to have her best interests at heart, but instead, they embezzled her out of over $1 million. She lost all her earnings and owed the IRS "hundreds of thousands of dollars" at the time of her death, per The Mirror.

According to the book "Judy & I: My Life with Judy Garland," which was written by Garland's ex-husband Sidney Luft, the couple filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against Fields and Begelman, arguing that the agents "deliberately and systematically misused their position of trust so as to cheat, embezzle, extort, defraud and withhold over $1 million for their personal use, which rightfully belonged to Judy Garland."

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Fields pressured Garland to work even when she was severely ill. "I honestly, I really now firmly, sincerely, deeply believe that the best thing for this girl's health, security, mind, sanity, is to get back to work," Fields said of Garland, who, it should be noted, was not a girl but in her 40s at the time. "This girl's reality is work. ... If she goes down the drain, then I don't know what the hell you got — maybe the best you'll get is a wife in a hospital," he added rather cruelly.

Sylvester Stallone said Warner Brothers defrauded him

Alas, Sylvester Stallone may play a tough guy on screen, but he's been duped on more than one occasion IRL. In the late '90s, Hollywood financial adviser Kenneth Starr allegedly scammed Stallone out of $10 million by purposely giving him bad advice relating to the ailing Planet Hollywood diner chain, as reported by Vanity Fair. The case was settled, with Stallone receiving an unspecified payout. In 2011, Starr was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for defrauding numerous celebs out of $33 million, per the New York Post.

But the action star's financial woes didn't end there. In 2017, Stallone launched a fraud lawsuit against Warner Bros., alleging that the studio robbed him of millions of dollars in profits from his film "Demolition Man." The complaint was filed through Stallone's company Rogue Marble. "The motion picture studios are notoriously greedy," the lawsuit stated, per The Hollywood Reporter. "This one involves outright and obviously intentional dishonesty perpetrated against an international iconic talent. ... WB just sat on the money owed to Rogue Marble for years and told itself, without any justification, that Rogue Marble was not owed any profits." According to the lawsuit, Stallone should have received 15 percent of the film's gross, which was $125 million or higher, but he'd been repeatedly lied to and sent bogus accounting records.

In 2019, Variety reported that the case was settled for an undisclosed amount. As his various scammers learned, Stallone is anything but expendable.

Zsa Zsa Gabor was financially ruined by Bernie Madoff

Hollywood icon Zsa Zsa Gabor was famed for her numerous husbands, but considering the dire financial position in which she unwittingly found herself later in life, one can hardly blame her for tying the knot with wealthy bachelors on nine consecutive occasions.

In 2009, BBC News named Gabor as yet another victim of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The culprit was initially believed to have scammed Gabor out of $7 million, but her lawyers said that the losses may have been as high as $10 million.

The Sunday Times reported that the ordeal had left Gabor, who was aged 92 at the time, in financial ruin. "We might be forced to sell our Bel-Air home, cars, artwork and even our jewellery because of this sick man," her ninth and final husband, Frederic von Anhalt, lamented.

By 2020, Gabor had been dead for almost four years, and there were reports that Madoff was set to be released from prison early due to terminal renal failure. But Gabor's widower was having none of it. "If he has kidney failure, I'm sure he has lots of accounts people don't even know yet about it," von Anhalt told TMZ. "He has so much money outside. So yeah, they should let him out to get all the rest of the money, and then he can buy himself some new kidneys. ... My wife would say, 'Let him in, let him rot in hell.'" Ouch.

Nicolas Cage claims his manager defrauded him

Once a venerated Oscar winner, Nicolas Cage is now notorious for saying yes to just about any movie script that's sent his way — and, of course, for becoming a living meme. His eagerness to add several movies a year to his IMDb page may be partly due to the actor finding himself on the precipice of financial ruin. Having amassed millions throughout his decades-long career, we want to know: How'd it get burned?

Cage is well known for his financial woes, but he claims that his former business manager, Samuel Levin, is at fault, alleging that he was defrauded out of millions. In 2009, TMZ reported that the actor was suing Levin for leading him "down a path toward financial ruin." Cage claimed that Levin's sheer incompetence was to blame for his monetary woes, namely due to the manager's alleged elusiveness in showing his client the true extent of his precarious financial situation. "Levin placed Cage in numerous highly speculative and risky real estate investments, resulting in Cage suffering catastrophic losses," the lawsuit stated. Subsequently, Cage sought $20 million in recompense. 

In 2010, the lawsuit was settled, as well as a countersuit by Levin. "Nic is happy that it is resolved," an insider told TMZ, though whether Cage received his $20 million payout remains a mystery.

So, have Cage's financial woes been sorted? Based on his decision to star in the 2.9-rated "Jiu Jitsu" in 2020, the jury is still out on that matter.