A Hicksville modeling agency owner has admitted to scamming $236,000 out of nearly 100 clients and parents of children that he promised acting and modeling work after scouting them at malls over a two-year period.
James Muniz and pleaded guilty Thursday at Nassau County court to grand larceny, scheme to defraud and conspiracy. His company, New Faces Development Center, Inc., also known as Model Talent Development Corp., also pleaded guilty to larceny and scheme to defraud.
“James Muniz built a business, a fraudulent one, cynically exploiting something all Americans can relate to—the love and pride parents feel for their children,” said New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Prosecutors said the 44-year-old Smithtown man and his staff offered modeling gigs to adults with children and teenagers at Roosevelt Field Mall, Queens Center, Smithtown Mall and other public places between Jan. 1, 2011 and Nov. 30, 2012.
Company staffers allegedly persuaded clients to purchase photographs and tricked some victims into contracts by falsely claiming that if they didn’t sign up, they would lose a shot at a gig with major retailers. Victims lost between $500 and $5,100.
Charges against three of his staffers are pending. Muniz was apprehended in Florida, where he fled after his staff was rounded up.
Muniz additionally pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal contempt for violating an order of protection for his then-wife in 2011 in an unrelated case.
Judge William Donnino is expected to sentence Muniz on June 20 to 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison, plus restitution to his victims. He will be sentenced May 22 to six months in jail in the second case.