NJ sues two companies in alleged modeling scam

July 26, 2011 2:43:45 PM PDT
New Jersey is suing two companies offering modeling and talent services and their owner for alleging engaging in deceptive practices.

Prosecutors say they companies enticed consumers to enter into written agreements to pay for services that would purportedly assist their children in obtaining modeling and acting careers.

More than 200 consumer complaints have been filed against Industry Model and Talent Studios and Interface Talent Group and their owner, Roman Vintfeld, who reportedly changed the name of the company from Industry to Interface when he moved the headquarters from Edgewater to East Brunswick.

The state's four-count complaint names the two companies and Vintfeld as defendants. Prosecutors allege that the defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act through unconscionable commercial practices, false promises and misrepresentations and knowing omissions of material fact, as well as failing to provide copies of sales contracts to consumers.

"We allege that consumers were led to believe they would receive personalized assistance to market their children to prospective modeling or acting employers," Attorney General Paula Dow said. "But they ultimately ended up paying for expensive photo shoots and nothing more."

The state is seeking restitution for consumers, which at present totals approximately $170,000, as well as civil penalties and reimbursement of its attorneys' fees and investigative costs.

According to the complaint, the defendants approached parents with children at malls and theme parks, commented on how attractive the children looked and obtained contact information from the parents. Then, the defendants allegedly induced the parents to come to their offices for a free evaluation, at which time they were pressured to sign contracts that they were told included marketing services, but in reality only provided for a photo shoot.

The state's complaint further alleges that the contracts contained clauses that prevented cancellations or refunds for scheduled photo shoots and also waived the customers' right to a jury trial and to assert any defense, set-off or counterclaim in any action.

"These defendants did far more than just fail to deliver on their high-priced promises," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. "They canvassed malls and other places in search of targets to defraud, and by using flattery and the age-old allure of getting children into show business, they deceived consumers into spending thousands of dollars for nothing more than headshots."

The alleged violations include misleading consumers into believing they were a model or talent agency, misleading consumers into believing they could place someone in the modeling or entertainment industries and misrepresenting to consumers at the time of initial contact that there were no fees involved with any initial meeting or evaluation.