Banking on kids’ dreams of becoming famous, four people have been charged for scamming families with promises of landing their children acting and modelling jobs through their bogus modelling agency. Between 2010 and 2012, James Muniz, Jennifer Santiago, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, and Michelle Alperin-Smith ran Model Talent Development Corp. and New Faces Talent Development Center in Nassau County. They falsely claimed that MTD and New Faces represented famous talent to lure parents into paying for services that never existed.
Santiago, Diaz-Domenech, and Alperin-Smith have been arrested. Muniz was supposed to turn himself in yesterday morning, but did not do so. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Though the “business” was based in Hicksville, MTD dispatched associates to malls as far as Queens to “recruit” new talent. The scouts would convince young teenagers and parents with young children that the child had the “look” for modelling or acting.
Muniz and his associates hustled parents into signing contracts naming MTD their child’s agent or else risk losing employment opportunities–opportunities that never existed. (The services MTD provided were limited to snapping photos of the children and posting it to the now-defunct Gigacomps.com.) Families racked up charges to MTD ranging from $550 to $3,000.
The kids were promised lucrative modelling and acting contracts with big-name retailers like J.C. Penney and Abercrombie & Fitch, but would be forced to sign extra contracts and pay more money in order to access those contracts, otherwise New Faces/MTD would pass off the contract to another family.
Of course, those deals never existed. “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,” Nassau County District Attorney Rice said in a statement.
All told, Muniz and his associates made off with over $250,000. The investigation is ongoing, however, and prosecutors are still identifying victims of the scam, so that number is likely to go up. The four current face charges of grand larceny and fraud.