Women Scammed, Extorted After Sending Ashes to Fake TikTok ‘Artist’

  • Three women alleged that they were victims of an online scam after sending ashes to a TikTok artist for memorial paintings, USA Today reported.
  • The anonymous scammer reportedly asked for money when the women hoped to see their loved ones’ ashes again.
  • Women were offered free paintings dedicated to their loved ones by an impersonator of TikTok creator Federico Portalupi.

Grieving TikTokers are warning others about scam artists who offer to create memorials using the ashes of their lost loved ones, only to hold the remains for ransom.

Tennessee resident Kari Ide told USA Today that a TikTok artist who went by “Chad” offered to incorporate the ashes of her late mother into a painting for free in December, a proposal she believed was a generous holiday gesture. He only found out it was a scam shortly after the remains were sent to Georgia, he said in a TikTok video.

“Undoubtedly I sent them the cremation remains of my mother who died over a year ago, and this is a scam,” Ide said in a video.

In conversations about the project, the artist told Ide that he had secured a contract to work in Cambodia. However, after he sent his mom’s ashes to an address in Georgia, he received a disturbing email from the sender claiming to be Cambodian customs, USA Today reported.

In the email, the alleged Cambodian customs agent told Ide that they had her mother’s ashes and a painting, but she would have to pay $3,576 as a “clearance fee” if she wanted to receive them. Ide said he immediately called the police, referring to the January TikTok incident that he shared with the caption, “I got Scammed….He stole my Moms Cremation Remains.”

Ide is not the only victim of the mysterious TikTok scammer. Just days after she shared her story, Jocelyn Cronin of Petaluma, California said in a video that she sent her late husband’s ashes to the same address in Georgia.

Cronin told USA Today that he was commenting on one of “Chad’s” videos, and a woman approached him offering to give him a photo if he would send her husband’s ashes. After Cronin obliged, he received the same email as Ide requesting a $3,576 clearance fee.

“My heart is breaking,” Cronin wrote on his January TikTok. “They have my husband’s ashes.”

Wendy Bailey of Alabama said the artist also scammed her in December after she contacted him asking for an online shoutout in exchange for art using her grandparents’ ashes, per USA Today. After he sent the cremated remains to a Georgia address, the artist asked Bailey for $200 for supplies.

When Bailey refused the request, the artist admitted that he had sent the ashes to Cambodia and had to pay $1,000 to get them back.

“Cashapp me $1000 and get your ashes sent back to you,” a message from the alleged scammer read.

At the time of the fraud, the three victims were unaware that the scammer had stolen the online identity of a real artist named Federico Portalupi, and that they had unknowingly sent their loved ones to the confused Georgia resident, James Turner.

The 62-year-old Woodstock resident told USA Today that he tried to return the first package after he mysteriously received it in the mail, but couldn’t handle it so ended up throwing away the ashes. By the time Turner received the second package in January, Woodstock police had been notified by Bailey.

In Today, Cronin and Ide still haven’t returned the loved ones’ ashes, and Bailey drives two hours from Alabama to Georgia to retrieve her grandparents’ ashes. When the three women tried to identify the scammer using CashApp, they were unsuccessful.

According to USA Today, none of the women sent the accused scammer money, and reports were filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Woodstock Police Department.

Portalupi, the real artist of the advertised paintings, told USA Today that he did not recognize the impersonator until after the women had already been scammed.

“I’m worried about it,” he said, per USA Today. “You get popularity, and people abuse what you do. Why do people do these kinds of things?”

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