This week the story of Harvey Weinstein’s spectacular downfall took an unexpected twist into the secretive world of former intelligence agents employed by private entities when New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow related that he showed actress Rose McGowan, who had accused the film mogul of rape, a surveillance photo of a woman she had considered a friend.
This friend, thin and blond, went by Diana Filip. She had a European accent and presented an offer of $60,000 in cash if McGowan would be the public face of a women’s rights campaign Filip said she was launching for the firm Reuben Capital Partners. Except Filip was no friend, she was an operative working for the Israeli security firm Black Cube, hired by Weinstein in an effort to smear McGowan and suppress coverage of the allegations of serial sexual assault.
“Oh my God,” McGowan wrote in an email to Farrow, published in the New Yorker. “Reuben Capital. Diana Filip. No fucking way.”
That shock must have been similar for reporters at the Wall Street Journal, who soon put it together that the “Diana Ilic” their paper found in July on CCTV footage– then apparently trying to undermine reports critical of AmTrust’s accounting practices with false promises to an author of those reports– was the same woman as McGowan’s “Diana Filip.”
With pictures of the spy exposed, it was only a matter of time that her identity would come to light. The Daily Mail published her name yesterday: Stella Penn, or Stella Penn Pechanac, along with biographical details taken from a web page for the group Recalculating the Educational Route, an organization for first generation Israelis/immigrant Israelis. Stella is listed on the “who are we page”
Stella Penn Pechanac
Stella immigrated to Israel in 1994 from Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia. Since the age of 15, she has been traveling to the US and Australia as a speaker for fundraising campaigns and advocacy conferences in Jewish communities. Stella served as a lieutenant in the Israeli Air Force and in 2010 graduated in theater arts and performance studies from the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio. At IDC, she participated in the Ambassadors’ Club and volunteered at the ICT’s World Summit on Counter-Terrorism and the annual Herzliya Conferences. Stella was the executive manager of the Start-Up Class 2012 Program at the IDC Entrepreneurship Club. She speaks Serbo-Croatian, Hebrew, English and conversational Spanish.
Searching in English and Hebrew, I found more. Stella, 38, was born in Bosnia on June 11, 1979 to a Serbian Christian father and a Bosnian Muslim mother. The whole family converted to Judaism and immigrated to Israel in 1994 while their home city of Sarajevo was under siege by Milosevic’s forces. Getting out of Bosnia was more than a challenge. They were hiding in a basement when contacted by a Jewish family whose forbears Stella’s grandparents hid during the Holocaust. For saving the lives of Jews in former Yugoslavia, Stella’s grandfather was sent to a concentration camp where he died. The Jewish family remembered the kindness and implored the Israeli government to help sneak out of the Balkans Stella, Stella’s mom and Stella’s dad.
Today, Stella’s grandparents are honored at the Gallery of Heroes at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Her mother Sara Pechanac, born “Aida,” changed her name after converting to Judaism, and works at Yad Vashem.
With an incredible family history of sacrifice, risk and mixed religions under the same roof, the Pechanac’s journey to Israel was well documented by numerous media outlets over the last 20 years. In some of these sources, Stella’s name is printed as Sacha Penchanac.
Once in Israel, Stella lived in Jerusalem where she attended a religious school, Horev. After graduation she served in the Israeli military for three years as an air force officer. She then attended an acting school.
Stella seemed to have mild success as an actress, appearing as a vixen in a music video for the Israeli singer Rudi Saada in 2010.
She later studied at the prestigious IDC Herzliya and was government and Argov program graduate. Argov is a leadership and diplomacy program.
A collection of her wedding photos is also available online from the photographer’s website.
Bear in mind that Harvey Weinstein, before he was fired, was working on a Holocaust picture, Mila 18, about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He said in September about the project:
“I’m an Israeli in my heart and mind. I love that country, I love what it stands for. I’m proud to be Jewish And when people see Mila 18, they can subtitle it Jews with guns. Because this is not about going into the night quietly. This is the birth of the modern Israelis. These are the guys in the ghetto who said we’re not going to walk into the concentration camps and get herded like cattle. We’re going to kill some Germans instead.”
Stella Penn was reached for comment via email and did not immediately respond.