Three employees of the Model Talent Development Center and New Faces Development Center, Inc. of Hicksville have been arrested and charged with swindling dozens of parents from across Long Island out of a quarter of a million dollars.
The three women allegedly overcharged for photo shoots, misrepresented the terms of the clients’ contracts, and promised clients high-paying roles and modeling jobs for their children that never even existed.
After a five-month investigation by the Nassau County District Attorney's Office and New York State Attorney General's Office, police arrested Jennifer Santiago, 26, of Jamaica, Queens, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, 31, of Brooklyn, and Michelle Alperin-Smith, 42, of Nesconset. They are being charged with grand larceny and related charges.
Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of the CEO of both companies, James Muniz, 44, of Roslyn.
Muniz became president and CEO of the two companies in 2010, and both Model Talent Development and New Faces Development closed in November 2012. In those two years, Muniz had employees posing as talent scouts in malls and stores, including the Queens Center and Roosevelt Field shopping malls. The accomplices would approach young teenagers and people with small children and tell them that they had “the look” and persuade them to sign up for free services to find modeling and acting jobs.
"Hundreds of families were led to believe that their child was the next big thing, only to learn that they were just the next in line to be scammed," said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice stated in a Press Statement yesterday.
In reality, these services were not free, and customers were encouraged to pay various fees to extend their contracts and be considered for lucrative modeling positions for retailers such as Macy's, Toys R' Us, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, The Children's Place, Target, and JC Penney, less the positions be offered to someone else.
Muniz’ companies charged $550 to $3,000 for contract payments, according to authorities.
The investigation into Model Talent Development and New Faces Development is continuing, and anyone who thinks they may have been similarly victimized should contact DA Rice's Complaints Unit at (516) 571-3505 or the Attorney General's Office at (516) 248-3301.
[Source: District Attorney Rice]