Copycat: Impersonators Who Were Too Good

Celebrity, Bizarre, Crime, Funny, NakedLaw, News

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in some cases, it’s also the quickest path to a stint behind bars. For these celebrity impersonators, taking a shortcut to the lifestyles of the rich and famous lead only to ruin.

Not a pro football player

Sandro Duval apparently thinks practice makes perfect. He started impersonating the Atlanta Falcon’s Chris Houston on Twitter and then moved on to real life, scamming nightclubs, agents, and fans. He’s been arrested multiple times for fraud but can’t seem to learn. In his biggest scam, the FBI got involved after Duval, impersonating Houston, signed a contract with an agent and tried to make off with a $20,000 bonus. A year later, Duval was back at it, impersonating Chris Gamble of  the Carolina Panthers at a swank Miami nightclub. His table ran up a $15,000 tab and when Duval couldn’t pay up, he told police he was an undercover FBI agent. Unsurprisingly, the police didn’t buy this story; Duval was arrested and booked for grand theft and attempted credit card fraud.

Don’t Call Me Al

In early 2010 a man claiming to be Paul Simon tried to withdraw $4300 out of Simon’s Citibank account. Rafael Ramos is 6 feet 1 inch, compared to Simon’s well known 5 feet 3 inches, but had obtained the singer’s social security number and had a forged driver’s license and credit card in Simon’s name. When the teller became suspicious, apparently due to Ramos’s utter non-resemblance to Simon, Ramos took off but was later arrested and charged with attempted larceny.

Not a Motown star

Alan Young makes his living convincing people around San Francisco he’s a famous Motown star down on his luck. He spins tales of woe about losing his ID and money on an airplane, and charms his marks into paying for meals and hotel rooms. His most recent arrest came this past October, after he was spotted around town telling people he was singer/songwriter Lamont Dozier. According to the police report, “Young was placed under arrest … on several warrants for crimes committed while impersonating Motown celebrities.”

Not So Funny

In 2005 Robin Williams sued impersonator for Michael Clayton for being too good at his job. Clayton made his living for nearly two decades pretending to be the funnyman at appearances and benefits, but apparently took it too far when he allegedly was able to fool several charities and gave an interview as Williams. The court barred Clayton and his agent from using Williams’ name, voice, or likeness, on the threat of facing criminal charges; Clayton claimed his agent was responsible for the misdirection.  

Don’t Use [the] Force

One of the strangest cases of impersonation arrest occurred in 2007, when a man dressed as Chewbacca was arrested after head-butting a tour guide operator in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Frederick Evan Young was arrested after an altercation in which tour guide Brian Sapir, concerned that the Wookie was inappropriately “harassing and touching tourists,” confronted the 6 foot 5 inch Young. Sapir said when he asked Chewie not to touch the tourists, Young yelled “Nobody tells this wookie what to do!” and slammed his head into Sapir’s forehead.

A representative from Lucasfilm, while disavowing any affiliation with the impersonator, expressed  disgust at the behavior: “We are disappointed that someone dressed as Chewbacca would behave in this way.”