The fugitive CEO of a Hicksville-based modeling agency accused of defrauding dozens of clients out of more than $250,000 was apprehended Tuesday in Florida and is facing extradition back to Long Island.
James Muniz, who prosecutors said was staying with relatives in Hialeah, Fla., is facing 21 charges in Nassau County, including 20 counts of grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud.
Three of the 44-year-old Roslyn man’s employees had surrendered to authorities last month on similar charges. They include 26-year-old Jennifer Santiago of Queens, 31-year-old Jennifer Diaz-Domenech of Brooklyn and 42-year-old Michelle Alperin-Smith of Nesconset.
Prosecutors alleged Muniz’s company, New Faces Development Center, Inc. and Model Talent Development Corp., which closed in November, had scouts tell victims they had the “look” to succeed in modeling or acting, would not be charged for the companies’ services and that only a few were offered such opportunities through the agencies—but scouts signed up anyone who’d pay for contracts costing $550 to $3,000. Both companies are facing the same charges as the four suspects.
The New York Attorney General’s office, which sued New Faces for $250,000 in restitution in 2006 when it was owned by Muniz’ ex-wife, opened a new investigation into the company last year before the case was consolidated with a similar probe by the Nassau County District Attorney’s office.
Muniz is being held in a Miami-Dade County jail until he is extradited to New York. He and the three employees face up to seven years in prison, if convicted. Each company faces fines of up to $10,000, plus possible restitution.
Since the arrests were announced, investigators have received about 300 phone calls from other clients of the modeling agency, leading to 85 formal complaints that are now being reviewed.
The investigation is continuing, and anyone who thinks they may have been similarly victimized should contact DA Rice’s Complaints Unit at 516-571-3505 or the Attorney General’s Office at 516-248-3301.