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Prosecutors: L.I. Modeling Agency Scammed Dozens Of Families Out Of $250,000

Employees Face Grand Larceny, Fraud Charges
From Left: Michelle Alperin-Smith, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech and Jennifer Santiago (credit: Nassau County District Attorney's Office)

From Left: Michelle Alperin-Smith, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech and Jennifer Santiago (credit: Nassau County District Attorney’s Office)

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Three employees of a Long Island-based modeling agency have been charged with scamming families out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.

Hicksville-based Model Talent Development Corp, which also operated under the name New Faces Development Center, Inc., is charged with scamming at least 50 families out of $250,000 by promising children high-paying modeling jobs, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.

“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,” stated Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “The defendants built a lucrative business by crushing the dreams of hopeful children and conning parents out of their hard-earned money.”

“These suspects exploited something we can all relate to – the love and pride parents feel for their children,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated. “The crimes we allege today are a clear-cut scam, and we are bringing the scammers to justice.”

Talent scouts targeted teens and children at shopping malls, beaches and other public places and told them that they had “the look” for modeling or acting, prosecutors said.

Michelle Molene, of Brooklyn, said she was scammed out of $5,000 after agents approached her 14-year-old daughter at the Queens Center Mall.

“They told her ‘you could be good for modeling,'” Molene said. “She gave them her phone number.”

Molene said the agents then disappeared after taking deposits for photo shoots and contracts.

Delora Castro of Forest Hills said she was scammed out of $6,000 after agents approached her 18-year-old daughter at the same mall.

“They said, ‘You’re very beautiful,’ and they asked my daughter, ‘Would you be interested in a modeling career?'” Castro said.

Victims paid for photo shoots and put down money for contracts with major retailers that never even existed, prosecutors said.

“Not one person got a modeling contract, not one person got any benefits for their children,” Schneiderman said.

Jennifer Santiago, 26, of Jamaica, Queens, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, 31, of Brooklyn, and Michelle Alperin-Smith, 42, of Nesconset, face grand larceny and fraud charges. They are set to be arraigned Wednesday.

An arrest warrant was issued for James Muniz, 44, of Roslyn, the CEO of the business.

The defendants face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

The investigation is ongoing, and anyone who may have been similarly victimized should contact District Attorney Rice’s Complaints Unit at (516) 571-3505 or the Attorney General’s Office at (516) 248-3301.

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