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George Clooney cons a con

Don't try to play George Clooney for the fool.

Recently, the Ocean's Eleven star met a woman through a charity organization. She told him that her daughter was critically ill and that he'd always been one of the girl's favorite stars.

The former E.R. doctor was so moved by the tear-drenched tale that he offered to call the daughter. They spoke several times. He sent her gifts, photos, memorabilia _ all of which brought more phone calls from the mother.

Gradually, though, "George began to smell a rat," says a friend. "He did some investigating. He finally found out the woman didn't have a sick daughter. The "mother' was the daughter _ she was doing the child's voice."

But the woman picked the wrong guy to con. According to his friend, Clooney, who is one of Hollywood's merriest pranksters, called the woman one day and said, "Hey, I've got great news. I have the studio jet. I'm going to fly down and surprise your daughter! We'll really make her day."

Caught off guard, the woman said she needed to call him back. "The next time she phoned," says our source, "she said, "I have terrible news _ my daughter just died!' That put an end to the situation."

Clooney's spokesman, Stan Rosenfield, confirms the story.

"George hopes this aberration won't diminish people's generosity," he says. "Of the 10,000 calls people receive to help children, 9,999 are legitimate."

Clooney's story eerily resembles one Rosie O'Donnell recounts in her memoir, Find Me, in which a mentally ill woman played the dual roles of a pregnant 14-year-old and the girl's mother.

Rosenfield didn't know whether Clooney believed the same woman conned him, or whether he planned to pursue criminal charges.