By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
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"They call back and say, 'It doesn't even seem like he owns a mortuary,'" Tarr says. So he recast Sean as a mortuary employee.
The producers wanted the owner of the mortuary to sign off. Tarr made up a story that an Indian billionaire named Sunil Syon had recently bought the business. He created a fake business license for the company, and made a fake ID for Syon, who couldn't be reached directly because he lived in Bombay. Nervous that he might get caught, Tarr went to the production offices in LA. His worries were for naught. "I walk in and there's my photo on their scheduling board," he says with some pride.
During the taping in Los Angeles, Tarr won this fake case, earning $1,137. The show aired last February.
Since performers on court shows get paid by the show itself—not the losing party—there's an obvious incentive for "litigants" to collude. Especially when they can earn up to $5,000.
That's what Tarr did with collaborator Naomi, a singer and DJ from Oregon who responded to his Craigslist ad. On the Judge Mathis show, he played a notary public who claimed that Naomi not only jilted him at the altar during a romantic European getaway, but also destroyed his computer. Naomi countered that Tarr never reimbursed her for the airline tickets, and that she didn't plan to marry him anyway.
During the Chicago taping, Mathis called Tarr a "smartass," laughed at his story, and ruled in Naomi's favor for $2,700. The duo split the money.
Since reality shows pay for travel, food, and hotel expenses—and generally provide a cash payment of about $200 per appearance—Tarr had not only found a way to scam them, but get them to pay him to do it.
Throughout it all, Tarr had repeatedly pitched The Trisha Goddard Show, hosted by a 55-year-old British talk show transplant who once worked as a flight attendant.
He peppered NBC Universal for days until he finally found traction with a character named Eddie the Trucker, a lottery addict who was cheating on his fiancée with prostitutes. The first producer listened intently and told him, "I really relate to your story, and I want you to get the truth out there."
"At no point does she say, 'Is this for real?'" Tarr says. "She's taking it all at face value. Very little verification other than talking with us. You would think they would at least Google my name."
The second producer was a little more skeptical, but Tarr outwitted her by getting indignant. "This is a serious issue," he bellowed. A third producer asked about his mental history, any prior arrests, visible facial scars or tattoos, and—evidently most important—whether he was missing any teeth. She told him to submit a photo ID and a headshot to prove his teeth were intact.
Last fall, with Naomi once again along for the ride, he was retrieved via limo and flown to Stamford, Connecticut, for the taping. The show used the same studios where Maury Povich and Jerry Springer film their shows. The segment would be called "My Double Life Ends Today . . . I'm Ready to Tell the Truth."
In the green room before his segment, Tarr came across a spiral notebook in which guests were told to write down what they are going to say—part of the coaching process. "If you didn't treat your boyfriend like shit, he wouldn't have felt the need to cheat on you," one guest wrote.
And then there was this: "Fernando, I love you with all my heart and I want to believe you, but my son told me you hurt him. . . . What am I supposed to do when my son comes back with marks on him and he is saying daddy hurt him?"
He overheard producers telling guests what to say and making them repeat it to their satisfaction. He watched as one Povich guest pleaded with the producers to see her daughter before the taping. "She's begging, 'Can I see my daughter? Can I see my daughter?' And they're blocking her," he says. "They won't let her. That was disgusting."
Finally, he and Naomi were called to the taping. Goddard first questioned Naomi, who said, "I know he's keeping a secret from me." Affecting his Southern accent, Tarr declared, "I'm $70,000 in debt and they're looking to repo my truck. I drive up and down the coast and see call girls. I go to a place just past Fresno. It's a cathouse."
"When was the last time you slept with a prostitute?" Goddard asked.
Tarr waited a beat, then deadpanned, "Monday night."
The audience hooted.
Goddard wondered how he was going to fix the relationship. But Eddie the Trucker had his go-to move at the ready. "I'm going to seduce her like I normally do." Naomi pretended to cry, but Tarr offered comfort. "We would have beautiful children," he told her. "We could produce some nice product."