Karen Elaine Hanover Goes From Federal Court as Fraud Defendant to Comedy Club as Stand-up

Karen Hanover reportedly made her stand-up comedy debut at the Hollywood Improv Sunday. Sadly, I wasn't able to make it, so hopefully an audience member can spill on whether the Seal Beach resident's set killed.

What I really want to know is whether the 47-year-old riffed on her FBI "spoofing" conviction, her time locked up or pending federal fraud counts that may produce future bookings in prison.

When I asked the budding comic via email how her advertised comedy debut went, the first reply I received was, "You need to write some more smut to wreck my life even further?" Hanover also wondered why I would even ask such a thing after having posted the following in May:

Karen Elaine Hanover, Accused Fraudster, Loses Appeal of FBI "Spoofing" Conviction

In 2009 and 2010, Hanover billed herself not as the next Shecky Greene but a real estate guru with access to large amounts of capital that could be used to purchase distressed commercial properties at seminars around the country that were called investment "boot camps." The expertise she billed on her website and elsewhere was as dubious as her get-rich-quick program, but there was nothing blatantly illegal about that, let the buyer beware, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Dozens attended her events and became "fast trackers" by paying Hanover $29,997 in exchange for her promise to work with each to source, analyze and provide financing for two commercial real estate deals within a year, according to documents filed in Santa Ana federal court. Included were offers of refunds if that assistance did not come to fruition within a year.

The crux of the government fraud case against Hanover is she allegedly did not provide the tutoring, contacts nor the refunds. Some had complained about Hanover on blogs and websites, prompting her to use telephone technology to change her voice to a man's and her caller identification number to the FBI's Los Angeles office to call or leave messages with some of her most vocal critics warning them to back off.

That earned her a $5,000 fine and six months in jail, a sentence she appealed but was upheld in May. Meanwhile, Hanover faces trial in October on federal mail fraud charges for allegedly conning 50 folks out of nearly $2 million. Up to 40 years in prison could come with conviction on all counts.

"Her light-hearted, hilarious sense of humor about womanhood, being middle-aged and dating is sure to delight audiences," reads the Los Alamitos Patch announcement of Hanover's Hollywood Improv show.

The notice also touts her "lucrative career as an author and public speaker," ending with the claim she "has moved into television and comedy. Her new talk show Who Am I to Talk? debuts in first-round syndication this fall."

Debbie Ciampi, a Florida blogger who claims Hanover threatened her "and ruined my name on the Internet," fears this is essentially the makings of an insanity defense.

"I think she is trying to prove she is crazy," Ciampi tells the Weekly. "There is something seriously wrong with this woman."

Ciampi planned to forward the Improv announcement to the FBI in case it can roll into the looming fraud prosecution.

"The people who thought she was a real estate investor [and] gave her money will not be laughing," Ciampi predicted.

Booking a comedy gig does not a crazy person make, of course. Some found guilty of crimes have bounced back with successful broadcasting careers (see Roger Hedgecock and Martha Stewart, who even did time in Club Fed!). And honestly, Hanover has not read unbalanced in her communications with the Weekly, although the last one did read desperate.

"I have paid dearly for my stupidity in making a ridiculous phone call and served the sentence imposed upon me by Judge [Josephine] Tucker," Hanover wrote. "I beat myself up more than anyone ever could for it. I have lost everything including some friends and family. I am flat broke and will start over at the age of 47.

"I should have been allowed to get on with my life. But in retaliation for Judge Tucker acquitting me (as they would have gotten to sentence me for fraud without a fraud trial if she hadn't), they filed fraud charges. I am now again in a fight for my life and I've learned from my last trial that innocence doesn't necessarily mean that I will be all right. My life ends in October if things don't go my way as they should as I will come out of prison old, broke and with no friends or family."

There's nothing very funny about that, which brings us back to the comedy show. No matter how well or poorly Hanover was received at the Improv, she has already displayed mad improvisation skills, according to court documents.

As the federal case first came crashing around her, she went to a Long Beach bank and withdrew $200,000 in cash from her account. Leaving on a moped, Hanover claims, she was robbed of all that money by an African-American man.

OC Weekly Hanover case archives

In the police report, Long Beach Officer Tristan Corbett, who responded to the call, reports: "Karen stated she withdrew the money because she is involved in a civil lawsuit and she did not want those funds attached."

"Attached" here means she did not want those funds seized in a judgment against her, which to government prosecutors indicated motive for impersonating an FBI agent and obstructing justice. Worse, prosecutors wrote in court documents, it would show in Hanover's mind she considered it ill-gotten money, bolstering a fraud conviction.

By the way, federal prosecutors put "robbery" in quotes.

Hanover argues in court papers that it makes no sense to stage the robbery in broad daylight because of the inherent risks. Such a public incident would be "hardly a way to hide one's money or hide what one is doing," she claims.

But the government counters that by publicly withdrawing the money and then having it "stolen" would show she could not have hid the cash and victims would be unable to collect it. Where that money wound up remains a mystery.

In her email, Hanover mentions how ominous the legal path before her remains.

"You can't imagine (and I hope you never do) how frightening it is to be in this situation," she writes. "It's like being told I have a terminal disease and they're going to try some medicine and see if it works.

"Oh ... and so you know, the conviction rate of people who go to trial is over 96 percent. So I have a 4 percent chance of being OK. Maybe you could do an article on that. Google those stats. I saw them on the Internet."

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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