DA: Complaints against modeling agency pour in

Four employees of a Hicksville modeling agency, Model Talent Development Corp., also known as New Faces Development Center, were charged Wednesday with scamming more than $250,000 from clients by promising to get their children modeling jobs that didn't exist. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Sept. 18, 2013)

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About 140 new complaints against a Hicksville modeling agency poured in to state and local officials Thursday, a day after three agency employees were arrested and charged in an alleged $250,000 scam.

Representatives for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who jointly investigated the case, said their offices are processing the new crop of calls and emails from consumers who think they were conned by Model Talent Development Corp. and New Faces Development Center. More charges could be filed.

The agency's president and chief executive, James Muniz, 44, of Roslyn, remained at large, a Rice spokesman said. Muniz failed to surrender Wednesday and a warrant was issued for his arrest. His attorney could not be immediately reached.

The three other defendants -- Michelle Alperin-Smith, 42, of Nesconset, vice president for operations; Jennifer Santiago, 26, of Jamaica, Queens, the marketing director and online sales representative; and Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, 31, of Brooklyn, a senior development director -- were arraigned on grand larceny charges and released on their own recognizance Wednesday.

They're due back in court Friday; each faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors said the defendants scammed 50 victims out of more than $250,000 by promising to get their children nonexistent high-end modeling jobs.

Gregory Grizopoulos, a Westbury lawyer for Diaz-Domenech, said his client is a married mother of two and had "no criminal involvement whatsoever."

"You have a lot of people -- especially in that type of business with modeling and acting -- everybody thinks their kid is the next star and I think when you're not getting contracts, you blame the person who's a contact for you at the company," he said.

William Petrillo, a Garden City attorney who represents Alperin-Smith, said she's gotten "tons" of support from vendors and clients. She also owns the Deer Park-based modeling agency UdevelopMe.

"Michelle never should have been charged in the first place," said Petrillo, who said his client is a married mother of two.

The alleged scam hit home for Roosevelt resident Ada Brown, who said that in 2002 her daughter Alicia, then 19, was scouted at a mall by a previous version of the firm called New Faces.

That company paid $250,000 in restitution in 2006 and agreed to cease "deceptive business practices."

Ada Brown said she paid the company $5,000 over eight months, and her daughter never got a job.

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