"She's just a con artist. It's really sad to say," said Deborah, Tracii Hutsona's sister. "She can talk anybody into anything." And that's exactly what Tracii did as the clever woman stole over a million dollars from an NBA star's ex-wife...
This Is Tracii
Meet Tracii Hutsona. The now 52-year-old was born in Phoenix, Arizona and her family later moved further west to San Jose, California. So how did she come to be mixed up with an NBA baller's ex-wife and charged with fraud and identity theft?
According to Tracii's older sister, Deborah Lindstrom, it all started way back. Deb claimed that Hutsona was raised mainly by siblings, not parents. "You have to be a little sympathetic because our childhood sucked," she explained. "We lived in a normal house, and it seemed normal from the outside."
It Ran in the Family
But according to Deborah, what happened behind closed doors told a different story. "My mother was very charming and beautiful, and my father had the Irish gift of the gab," she added. It soon became clear that the girls' dad wasn't the only one in the clan with a gift for eloquence and smooth-talking.
Lindstrom claimed that Hutsona engaged in criminal-esque activities from a young age. Deborah said that Tracii first stole her driver's license before things escalated: the young girl took from their parents and even opened credit cards under their grandma's name.
Her Early Ploys
Some around Tracii started to lose trust in her early on. Even as a teenager, Hutsona was caught scheming and lying to get what she wanted. Then things went up a level when the young woman started messing with people outside the family and making up stories that involved celebrities.
"She convinced this car dealership that she was working on the movie Jingle All the Way, and she needed a car for Arnold Schwarzenegger to drive," Deborah shared. "It was some fancy car. She always liked to drive fancy cars. But that's how talented she is. Do you know how good you have to be to do that?" It was only the start...
Run-Ins With the Law
The stunt at the car dealership and name-dropping Arnold Schwarzenegger might've been the first time Tracii scammed someone to such a degree (at least that her sister saw), but it certainly wasn't the last. Hutsona was warming up for a career as a serial con artist.
The proof is in court reports from the time. Documents stated that Tracii used a worthless check to buy a Jeep, stole and forged checks to pay rent and buy home appliances, and opened credit cards using others people's information. But again, this was just the warm-up.
Fast forward sometime to August 2005, and Tracii worked at a staffing business. She hooked up other companies with contractors to complete small-scale projects. It didn't take long for things to get... sketchy. Hutsona made up two fake contractor profiles.
Why? Well, she hired the sham contractors for an insurance company's project. And when the payments came in, the money went straight to Tracii and her then-husband's bank account. Hutsona went so far as to alter her own passport with someone else's photo to pull off the scam.
How Much Did She Steal?
Tracii's scheme had her living large. "I thought she lived in Marina del Rey, which is here in California," said former co-worker Scott Sornbutnark. "That's a pricey neighborhood; it's a nice neighborhood. I was like, 'Wow, why do you need this job?' I can see how she afforded it now.'"
Hutsona stole over half a million dollars before the scam was detected by law enforcement. "We were totally shocked," shared Sornbutnark. "I mean, she was super-personable. Like super-charismatic." This wasn't the last time Tracii would use her charm to get away with a big lie.
Tracii Was Arrested
Tracii had already left the staffing company when her scheme was noticed. But as soon as police showed former co-workers a picture of Hutsona, they recognized the woman staring back at them. It wasn't long before law enforcement got ahold of the con artist.
The California resident was arrested in 2007 and charged with wire fraud and identity theft. Tracii's then-husband, Paul Vician, also faced charges. Hutstona's legal troubles caused a rift in the family, as Deborah spoke with law enforcement about her sister. But the sibling fallout didn't put an end to the shenanigans.
On to the Next Victim
So Tracii got in trouble with the law once more. After successful car dealership scams and bad checks, Hutsona upped her game and managed to steal over a hundred thousand dollars. But facing court charges didn't stop the budding con artist from going on the prowl for more fraud opportunities.
And she soon found a chance in Jacqueline Ellman, a recently divorced mom who moved from Palm Springs to L.A. in the fall of 2008. The two women connected when Jacqueline saw a post on Craigslist for some couches Tracii was selling. Los Angeles's newest resident had no idea who she was getting involved with.
Tracii Met Jacqueline
When Jacqueline checked out the sofas, she was struck by the beautiful Malibu home where Tracii lived. And by her kindness: Hutsona graciously offered to drop off the couches at Ellman's house later in the day. But as the two women got to talking, the subject shifted to something else.
Tracii told Jacqueline that the gorgeous Malibu flat they were standing in had mold. "I learned that they were having to move out of this house and that they didn't have a next step," Ellman said. "I was like, 'Wow, that's pretty devastating.'" The divorced mom then made a generous offer.
They Got Close
Jaqueline initially intended to rent out her former Palm Springs house but offered the place to Tracii after hearing their mold story. "That's where, stupid me, I offered to let her stay in my place free of charge," Ellman regretfully recalled. What the charitable woman didn't know was that everything she'd just heard was a lie.
Tracii was being kicked out of the Malibu home because she attempted to pay rent with a bad check and failed to pay the money afterward. But Jaqueline didn't know this, and her family, including the children, became close friends with Huston. Then things took a turn.
Things Went Missing
Tracii and her family lived in Jaqueline's Palm Springs property. But when she and then-husband Paul Vician had to go to L.A., they often crashed at Ellman's home in the city. "She just knows how to navigate a person. She acts very reliable, and she becomes very close to you as though she's your friend," Jaqueline said.
"She almost knows when you're in a position to help, and she works it to the end," Ellman continued. "But she makes it where you offer it up. She works the angles that she's in a bind, and she doesn't know what to do." Then items, including high-end bags like a Gucci purse, went missing from Jaqueline's home...
Jaqueline Figured It Out
Ellman was concerned when some very pricey items disappeared. Yet, the generous woman's initial reaction was not to accuse her closest friends. But all of that changed when Jaqueline received a shocking envelope addressed to the Palm Springs home but forwarded to Los Angeles thanks to the change of address she filed when moving.
So what did the forwarded mail contain? Ellman couldn't believe it: it was a bill for a newly-opened credit card under Jaqueline's name. Considering it had the Palm Springs address and charges for things she never purchased - including an Audi rental and a storage unit - it was clear that someone committed identity theft.
She Confronted Tracii
Jaqueline had no doubt who was responsible for the bill. Ellman couldn't believe that the person she'd been so generous with had betrayed her so deeply. It wasn't long before the two women had a confrontation. "I texted her, and I said, 'Did you really open a Mastercard card in my name, Tracii?'" Jaqueline shared.
"Then, she called me up right away, said, 'I have this problem, and I'm really trying to be better,' and this and that," Ellman added. But Jaqueline didn't fall for Tracii's tricks this time. Ignoring her former friend's crying and excuses over the phone, Ellman called the police.
Tracii's Husband Turned on Her
As the fraud investigation went deeper, something else became clear: Tracii had been betrayed by a loved one. Once loyal, the con artist's husband turned on her. "When the United States Diplomatic Security Service began investigating Mr. Vician's wife, he immediately came to her defense," Paul's lawyers wrote in a memo.
"[He] had been married to her for close to 12 years - he believed in her innocence. He did not think his wife would be so foolish to commit a scheme... to enrich their family," the lawyers continued. "However, over the course of the investigation... Mr. Vician discovered more and more about his wife's double life."
Caught Red Handed
It was confirmed that Vician had really been clueless about his wife's scheming while working at the staffing company. But as the evidence mounted and Tracii faced more accusations, he saw her true colors. And the husband's account was just what law enforcement needed to put Hutsona away.
Tracii was sentenced to 75 months at a California prison for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and tax evasion. Court documents state that the con artist taught English classes to other inmates and partook in charitable work while serving her sentence. But was she a changed woman?
Tracii Said She Learned Her Lesson
Tracii claimed time in prison had changed her. "She is committed to breaking this cycle, determined to stay away from the influence which has repeatedly ensued destructive behaviors and living a productive and humble lifestyle," Hutsona wrote in 2010 in a motion to end the 75-month sentence.
And she wasn't the only one who thought so. "Tracii is an individual who is worthy of a second chance," wrote a Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center chaplain in 2009. "I believe she will be successful upon her release and will not come back." Was he correct?
A New Husband & A New Restaurant
Some might've believed in Tracii's ability to change, but her husband was not one of them. After her release, Hutsona remarried. The new hubby, named Derrell Hutsona, was about 17 years younger than his wife. But that didn't stop the duo from opening a restaurant together... and getting in trouble for it.
The couple opened "Breakfast B****" in San Diego and later expanded the restaurant with another location in Phoenix, Arizona. But a place in Miami called "Bacon B****" accused the couple of copying their theme and menu. They even had proof that Tracii previously visited the business.
Elite Lux Life
The legal battle between Bacon and Breakfast was eventually dismissed. But in the meanwhile, the couple started another venture: a VIP concierge business. "Elite Lux Life accommodates the most discerning traveler as well as maintaining the current reputation of A-List clientele lifestyle management," read the company's website.
The group's description continued, "From last minute restaurant reservations, holiday bookings, theatre and concert tickets, to exclusive access to clubs, parties, and special events, Elite Lux Life is the go-to service for wanting to enjoy the very best life has to offer." What did Tracii have up her sleeve this time?
Their Luxurious Lifestyle
Of course, Tracii and Derrell couldn't sell people the lifestyle of the rich and the famous and not live it themselves. From the outside, the couple seemed to live a lavish life. The Hutsonas flaunted expensive cars, a beautiful home, and luxury vacations.
In fact, the duo even claimed they rented out their own home to Elite Lux Life clients. And when their house was taken, the Hutsonas nicknamed themselves "Homeless Millionaires." The budding concierge business soon brought them into a special someone's life.
An NBA Star's Ex Needed a Personal Assistant (2015)
By 2015, it seemed that Tracii's time in prison was a thing of the past. She and Derrell's business was taking off, and a happy client introduced the couple to Joumana Kidd, an actress, TV personality, and ex-wife of retired NBA player Jason Kidd. Joumana needed a personal assistant.
When Kidd's friend heard she needed an assistant to help with day-to-day tasks and manage the family schedule, they recommended the busy mom contact Tracii. Hutsona was happy to help, but Elite Lux Life took up most of her time; the entrepreneur could only work part-time as Joumana's assistant.
There Was No Background Check
Tracii convinced an unsuspecting Joumana to skip over all of the hiring paperwork. Why complicate things for a part-time gig; Hutsona would instead send her new boss monthly invoices for the personal assistant service. Things were off to a great start.
Since Kidd didn't hire Hutsona as an official employee, she also didn't do a background check. Anyway, the Elite Lux Life owner came highly recommended. Joumana was happy with the arrangement, and it didn't take long for her to trust Tracii with more responsibility.
Getting Close to the Fam
Tracii proved to be a great personal assistant. She was reliable and always happy to drive Joumana's kids from place to place, house-sit during holiday vacations, or just run errands. Kidd eventually gave Hutsona access to personal information and accounts.
The picture-perfect assistant grew close to the Kidd family. Joumana's daughter, Miah, even said Tracii was "like my second mom, literally." Hutsona's personal and professional relationship with the Kidds deepened... until her boss noticed money was missing.
Kidd Thought She Was Over-Spending
Sometime after Joumana hired Tracii, the ex-NBA wife's financial advisor told her she had to watch how much money the family spent. It seemed that the Kidds were over-spending, maybe taking too many vacations or doing too much shopping. So who did the worried mom turn to?
Ms. Kidd asked her trusty personal assistant to help with the family's spending habits. Once more, Tracii's responsibilities grew. Hutsona assisted them by finding cheaper holiday rentals and figuring out where the Kidds could cut down on spending. But the financial adviser was still concerned.
Someone Was Stealing
Tracii helped the family reduce their spending. The Kidds vacationed in less pricey homes, spent less on housekeeping and shopping. But according to their financial adviser, the bank accounts said otherwise. What was going on? Why did the money continue decreasing?
It became evident that it wasn't the Kidds' fault that their bank accounts kept shrinking. They weren't over-spending - someone was stealing. And whoever the mystery thief was, they stole money from various funds, including Joumana's college savings accounts for her children.
Hundreds of Thousands
Joumana knew that something was wrong when her financial adviser detected a whopping $307,498 missing from one of the accounts. It was totally unaccounted for in any of the family's bills. Once they had a peek into the rabbit hole, things only got worse.
There were new credit cards under Joumana's name that she had no idea existed. Who was committing identity fraud and taking all of this money? Kidd turned to one of the few people who had access to all of the family's accounts: Tracii. Did the personal assistant know anything?
When Joumana first asked her employee/friend if she had any idea why there was so much money missing, Tracii said no. Despite having access to all of the family accounts and info, Hutsona claimed to have nothing to do with the situation. And then her story changed.
Tracii showed up at Joumana's house and tearfully admitted to the wrongdoings. The con artist said she'd done it all to impress her younger husband, Derrell. Hutsona even got down on her knees and asked Kidd for forgiveness. But what Tracii did next shocked Joumana.
Kidd Forgave Her
As she begged for forgiveness, Hutsona actually offered to turn herself into the authorities. Kidd empathized with her personal assistant turned family friend and believed Tracii's story. Joumana told the Elite Lux Life owner not to go to the cops; they would figure things out together.
Kidd trusted Hutsona was being truthful and wanted to solve things without calling legal authorities. The two friends signed a personal plea agreement and settled the matter outside of court. Then Joumana changed the family's banking information and invited Tracii back to work.
Same Old Problems
After signing the personal plea agreement, the two women agreed that Tracii would work for Joumana to pay back all of the money she took. A whole year later, in 2019, Kidd's financial adviser realized that money was once more stolen. This time, there was no doubt who the thief was.
By the time the financial adviser noticed it, Tracii managed to steal over $1 million. According to federal prosecutors, the con artist used the stolen money on high-class restaurants, A-list nightclubs, cell phones, jewelry, and expensive hotels. And thanks to Hutsona, Joumana's credit score was now in the 400s.
Tracii Was Arrested
In February 2021, prosecutors charged Tracii with fraud and identity theft after the con artist stole over a million dollars from Kidd. "[Hutsona], a personal assistant and founding partner of Elite Lux Life, branded her concierge service as the 'VIP Concierge Company,'" said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss after the arrest.
"As alleged, Show-Hutsona afforded herself the same swanky accommodations she promised her clientele - only she did so with their money," he continued. "Tracii Show Hutsona's alleged high-flying confidence scheme has now been grounded, and she faces embezzlement charges in federal court."
She Didn't Stay Silent
At the time of this article's writing, Tracii Hutsona is out on bail. "I will be happy to elaborate on and provide documentation regarding the actual facts of this matter once the case is behind me," she wrote in an email to reporters. Joumana, for her part, is trying to move on.
While some might've been surprised that Kidd gave Hutsona a second chance, there was at least one person who wasn't: Tracii's sister. "She's just a con artist. It's really sad to say. And she's really good at it. She has been her whole life," Deborah said. "She can talk anybody into anything."