In June of this year, the Voice unfolded the curious tale of Ken Tarr, a 32-year-old serially unemployed Los Angeles man who found his true calling as a reality TV scam artist. Tarr managed to talk himself onto eight different reality shows, playing a variety of outsized characters: an inebriated “Gypsy” birthday party clown, an amorous trucker whose love for prostitutes was only matched by his love for the lotto, an jetsetting “security expert” two-timing his girlfriend, who was — twist! — also two-timing him, a steaming mad plumber, furious over being locked in a mortuary overnight. None of the show’s producers ever made a serious effort to verify his ridiculous backstories, which were all flimsy as a cardboard backdrop in a ’60s Western.
At the time, reporter Graham Rayman called him “one of the most prolific television hoaxers in U.S. history.” Not just TV, as it turns out; Tarr was also apparently expanding his areas of interest, diving past reality shows and into actual reality. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced yesterday that Tarr is being charged with felony eavesdropping for a series of prank calls he made to athletic coaches, offering them nonexistent jobs. He was also eager to brag about what he was doing, which in retrospect was probably a bad plan.
In October, you see, Deadspin wrote that Tarr had sent them an unsolicited email, bragging about pranking (or “hoaxing,” as he called it) both former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson. In the case of Dungy, he pretended to be from the University of Southern California, offering Dungy the high-profile gig. USC had to clarify that they weren’t calling Dungy, nor had they phoned the Denver Broncos to chat about the job.
In two phone calls with Deadspin, Tarr gleefully confessed to a laundry list of prank calls:
I just left three messages for the San Diego Chargers, and I’m expecting to hear back from them at any moment,” he said. “I want to hear what you have to say, but I’m offering John Pagano interest in the University of Texas job. I’m offering Ken Whisenhunt something, uh, I just wrote down. And my next thing is, I’m trying to reach Will Muschamp and just offer him some defensive coordinator position for some small school, to see if he gets insulted or not.”
He also copped to having recorded himself making some of those prank calls. As the DA’s office says, “Prosecutors allege that Tarr captured on video several phone conversations — during which he speaks to the victims on speakerphone — that he later posted on social media sites.”
But California is a two-party consent state, meaning that unless everyone on the call knows they’re being recorded, it’s illegal to do so. According to NBC News, the Los Angeles Police Department says they immediately started investigating, along with the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department and investigators from the NFL. Tarr was arrested December 9, and is being held on a $20,000 bail. He’ll be arraigned on December 30, and, if convicted, faces up to three years in prison. And prank calls are still just not that funny.