More than 200 people were scammed by a modeling company whose agents allegedly troll theme parks and malls to sign up parents and children, according to a complaint filed by the state of New Jersey.
After a three-year investigation into two modeling companies, the state attorney general's office has filed a complaint alleging that the agencies fraudulently enticed the people into signing contracts and promised parents they'd market their children toward modeling and acting careers.
The complaint alleges that Industry Model and Talent Studios LLC and its successor company -- Interface 1, LLC -- approached parents in theme parks and malls to "extol the children's good looks and prospects of a successful modeling career." Company representatives would then promise marketing opportunities for the children, the complaint continues, which resulted only in photo shoots organized by the company and paid for by the parents.
The N.J. Attorney General's office claims that the companies and the company's owner, Roman Vintfeld, violated the Consumer Fraud Act, made false promises, misrepresented facts and did not provide copies of sales contracts to consumers. The Attorney General is seeking approximately $170,000 in restitution for consumers as well as civil penalties and other fees.
"We allege that consumers were led to believe they would receive personalized assistance to market their children to prospective modeling or acting employers, but they ultimately ended up paying for expensive photoshoots and nothing more," said Attorney General Paula Dow in a press release.
Vintfeld and his companies are accused of enticing parents to sign up their children with the promise that they will not be charged unless their child receives work, and then are bombarded with phone calls to set up appointments. The appointments would conclude with a photo shoot agreement costing between $500 and $1,500, the complaint alleges.
Parents were allegedly told that their children would then be marketed for television shows, modeling agencies, movies and advertisers, much of which never materialized.
In one instance detailed in the complaint, a mother was told her son fit the bill for an upcoming project with Angelina Jolie and signed him up for the opportunity, which never happened.
Claudia Cordoba was one of the 200-plus complaintants. She told The Associated Press that she signed her 13-year-old son up for a photo shoot with the company after being approached in a New Jersey shopping mall and paid $1,000. After learning that the contract she had signed had a no-reschedule or cancellation policy, she brought her son in for the shoot and discovered that without an additional $800, the photos taken would never be distributed to other agencies for pick-up.
"It was devastating to him," Cordoba told the AP of her son. "They don't understand the damage they do to people. They play with people's feelings and with their dreams."
But Vintfeld's lawyer told ABCNews.com that the complaints are not a representation of their clientele, nor does the defendant claim any wrongdoing.
"Two hundred people complained, but there have been 20,000 customers at Industry. That's hardly what I would constitute as a fraud or a scam," said Christopher Farella, contending that his client's company provided Consumer Affairs with hundreds of documents supposedly proving that customers gained successful results.
"I'm disappointed in Consumer Affairs for filing this lawsuit… We're prepared to vigorously defend these allegations because they're absolutely baseless," said Farella.