NEWARK – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and the State Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against two companies offering modeling and talent services and their owner, alleging, among other things, that they engaged in deceptive practices in order to entice 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 submitted to the division against Industry Model and Talent Studios, LLC (“IMTS”), or its successor corporation, Interface 1, LLC. IMTS, formerly located in Edgewater, was owned by Roman Vintfeld. Interface 1, located in East Brunswick, also is owned by Vintfeld.
The state’s four-count complaint, filed in the Superior Court in Middlesex County, names the two companies and Vintfeld as defendants. The state alleges that the defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act through unconscionable commercial practices; false promises and/or misrepresentations and/or 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, but they ultimately ended up paying for expensive photoshoots and nothing more,” Dow said.
The state is seeking restitution for consumers, which at present totals approximately $170,000, as well as civil penalties against the defendants and reimbursement of its attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.
The state’s complaint alleges that 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. The state further alleges that defendants then induced the parents to come to their offices for a free evaluation, at which time defendants pressured the parents to sign contracts that they were told included marketing services, but in reality only provided for a photoshoot.
The state’s complaint further alleges that the contracts defendants required consumers to sign contained clauses that prevented cancellations or refunds for scheduled photoshoots, and also waived the consumers’ 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. “As set forth in the complaint, 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 committed by the defendants 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;
Misleading consumers by using the name “Industry Model and Talent Studios, LLC,” when in fact they were only in the business of doing photoshoots;
Misrepresenting to consumers at the time of initial contact that there were no fees involved with any initial meeting or evaluation;
Making oral misrepresentations that differed from the actual terms of the Photoshoot Agreement and the online Composite Card Membership Agreement;
Requiring consumers to execute written contracts or agreements without providing them sufficient opportunity to read and understand the terms; and
Deceiving consumers by telling them to sign the Photoshoot Agreement, to read it after they arrived home, and to call back with any questions when, by terms of the Agreement, it could not be cancelled and refunds would not be given;
An initial violation of the Consumer Fraud Act may result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000, with each subsequent violation subject to a civil penalty of up to $20,000.
Deputy Attorney General Frank J. Marasco in the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section is representing the State in this action. Investigators in the Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
To file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs, consumers should use the form located at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov or call 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within New Jersey) or 1-973-504-6200.
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