Mineola - (WALK) A Long Island-based modeling agency preyed on the aspirations of parents and children and swindled clients out of more than $250,000, according to prosecutors in Nassau.
Four employees of Model Talent Development Center and the New Faces Development Center in Hicksville were arrested and accused of grand larceny this week.
Defendents allegedly approached parents and children at malls throughout the Metro New York region, and suggested the children would be ideal subjects for a career in modeling. Victims would then be pursuaded to pay a minimum of $700, but often as much as several thousands of dollars, for photo shoots and other marketing materials, according to Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
Prosecutors say as many as 300 victims filed complaints against the company, with 50 victims identified. At least a dozen of the victims are from Long Island.
The suspects are: Jennifer Santiago, 26, of Jamaica, Queens, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, 31, of Brooklyn, Michelle Alperin-Smith, 42, of Nesconset, and the owner, James Muniz, 44, of Roslyn. Each suspect is charged with grand larceny, and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Muniz's ex-wife owned an earlier version of the company, "New Faces," and was the subject of an investigation several years ago, according to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The company agreed to end deceptive business practices, and paid restitution of $250,000, according to Schneiderman.