Don't Pretend to Be a Celebrity Chef Unless You Want to Go to Jail

By Mike Pomranz |
FAKE CELEBRITY CHEF GOES TO JAIL FWX

© H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Some spend years working hard to one day live the glamorous life of a celebrity chef. And then some people just lie and say they are a celebrity chef. Unfortunately, the latter of those constitutes fraud as Lee Michael Harrison found out the hard way.

Earlier this week, a federal court sentenced Harrison to 20 months in prison for defrauding a number of investors in part by claiming that he was a celebrity chef who owned multiple restaurants, had provided culinary services for celebrities, and was going to be starring in a TV show for the Food Network called Cut – not a bad name, really. Though the defendant had previously worked as a chef, it turns out he was not formally trained, and his main gig appeared to be working fulltime in fraud.

In possibly his most brazen lie, Harrison claimed that he was about to sell a made up piece of technology called “Capture” that prevented cellphones from dropping calls for over six billion dollars, according to court documents. It was through this fake venture that the fake chef convinced two couples to give him $20,000 each, the crime that eventually led to his conviction. The chain of events made perfect sense, because if there’s one thing chefs know about, it’s cooking; but if there’s a second thing chefs know about, it’s cellphone technology.

According to The Oklahoman, so great was the extent of Harrison’s lies that prosecutors asked for Harrison’s sentence to be extended beyond the federal maximum because he was a “chronic fraudster.” The court also ordered him to repay his victims, which he was supposedly able to do on the spot.

Let this be a lesson to all you aspiring chefs out there: It’s better to go to culinary school than to prison. And though you have to feel bad for his victims, let it be a lesson to them too: Typically, celebrity chefs will show up on Google.

Related: A Crash Course in Spotting Fake Wine from the Sherlock Holmes of Wine Fraud 
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