Eddie Murphy's ex-wife alleged victim of $7M con

6:34 PM, Dec 20, 2011   |    comments
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Tony Stratos

SACRAMENTO, CA - A man who claimed to be a well-known movie producer was arrested in Los Angeles Tuesday morning after allegedly swindling $7 million from the ex-wife of actor Eddie Murphy, according to an indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

READ: Stratos indictment

The indictment does not name Nicole Murphy. However, Murphy sued Troy Stratos in federal court in September 2010 and later dismissed the case.

According to the indictment, Stratos was the financial advisor for Murphy after her divorce from Eddie Murphy in August, 2005. Stratos promised he would help manage Murphy's portion of the proceeds of the divorce, including the sale of her Granite Bay home.

The indictment reads "Stratos did devise and intend to devise a material scheme and artifice to defraud N.M., and to obtain money from her by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses."

According to the indictment, Stratos claimed to be involved in the entertainment industry as a movie/video director and producer, and as a developer and promoter of entertainment talent.

Stratos made it known to N.M. that he was "wealthy and successful, and that among other things, he had made substantial money from oil investments," the indictment reads.

Stratos told Murphy he would invest her divorce proceeds overseas, including in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where the proceeds would earn a high rate of return. The indictment alleges Stratos did not invest any of Murphy's money overseas. Instead, he directed money to be transferred by wire from Murphy's trust account to his own personal accounts.

"Unfortuatenly, these kinds of events are really a lesson to us all -- that we have to be very, very careful with people that we trust our money to," said United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner.

According to Wagner, Stratos presented himself as a successful businessman.

"She apparently believed it and in a lot of fraud cases, unfortunately, the reason they're successful for so long is the fraudster is very good at cultivating the trust of his victims," said Wagner.

Stratos also told Murphy he would facilitate the sale of her Granite Bay home. At various times, Stratos told her "he had friends in the Middle East who were members of Middle Eastern royal families, and that they would purchase her house" in Granite Bay, according to the indictment.

Stratos lived at the Granite Bay home without paying rent, the indictment states, and used money misappropriated from Murphy to pay for his personal expenses. He also leased several luxury automobiles in Murphy's name for use at the Granite Bay home.

According to the indictment, Stratos is also known as Troy David Stafford. A family member, who asked not to be identified, said Stratos spent his childhood in Sacramento and most of his adult life in Los Angeles.

"I can just tell you that I feel there are two sides to every story and each of them will have to account for what they've done. When the final thing comes to rest it will all come out," said Stratos' family member.

Federal prosecutors are charging Stratos with three counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

Stratos made his first court appearance Tuesday in Los Angeles. His attorney, Walter Urban, could not be reached.

According to his personal website, Stratos describes himself as a director and entrepreneur "who has lived an adventurous life." His most recent work involves fashion lines for men and women.

A person who did not want to be identified but knows Murphy and Stratos well, said Murphy has known Stratos since she was a teenager.  The person said, "(Stratos) is one of the biggest con artists there is."

Sandra Reid, an assistant to Murphy, did not have any comment when reached by phone.


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