Authorities Allege Scam Referenced Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to Trick Investors

"Desilu Studios Inc." is not the same as "Desilu Productions Inc."

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz pose for a costume and makeup test, filmed days before the first I LOVE LUCY episode went into production in 1951.
CBS via Getty Images

Decades after I Love Lucy made its television debut, the work of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz continues to entertain audiences. The couple’s real lives have also been compelling to many, and led to a high-profile biopic, Being the Ricardos, which was released last year. The name of their production company, Desilu, has also endured over the years — but that’s where this particular story takes an unfortunate turn.

Now, a California man is accused of defrauding investors — and, according to reports, he used the name of Ball and Arnaz’s production company to do it.

An article at the Los Angeles Times offers more details on the scam and how it unraveled. At the center of it is one Charles Hensley, who first achieved fame as one of the inventors of the zinc-based cold remedy Zicam. In 2016, the Times reports, Hensley began attempting to raise money for a new venture, known as Desilu Studios Inc. Readers familiar with sitcom history will note that this name is similar to that of Ball and Arnaz’s Desilu Productions Inc. But in this case, “similar” doesn’t mean “has any connection to.”

This didn’t stop Hensley from saying that he had the blessing of one of Ball and Arnaz’s children. He did not.

Now, he faces both criminal and civil charges, including identity theft and multiple counts of wire fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed a case arguing that Hensley had enticed investors into giving him nearly $600,000. This case might be a footnote in television history, but a true crime documentary is just waiting to happen.

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