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Child modeling agency owner sentenced to prison

James Muniz, 44, chief executive of New Faces

James Muniz, 44, chief executive of New Faces Development Center in Hicksville, is sentenced at Nassau County Court in Mineola on Friday, July 11, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Smithtown man who ran a child modeling agency that law enforcement officials said ripped off parents with dreams of launching their children's careers was sentenced to 21/2 to 5 years in prison, officials said Friday.

James Muniz, 45, who ran New Faces Development Center, in Hicksville, and Model Talent Development Corp. was sentenced by Nassau County Court Judge William Donnino, said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, in a joint statement with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The officials said Muniz scammed up to 100 clients out of more than $236,000 by promising them modeling and acting jobs with top-notch retailers, but the opportunities didn't exist. Last May, he pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud and fifth-degree conspiracy, officials said.

"With one broken promise after another, James Muniz and his accomplices turned the hopes and dreams of parents for a better life for their children into a moneymaking enterprise based entirely on taking advantage of others for a quick buck," Rice said.

Schneiderman said: "His sentence sends the message that those who take advantage of unsuspecting New Yorkers will be held accountable."

Joshua Ketover of Garden City said his client looks forward to paying his debt to society, adding that New Faces also had many satisfied clients.

"We spent a long time working toward this resolution," he said. "He's only pled guilty to 10 percent of the charges leveled against him and the remaining ones were dismissed in satisfaction of this arrangement. He acknowledges his responsibility along with the employees that he had."

Muniz admitted he acted in concert with co-defendants Michelle Alperin-Smith, 43, of Nesconset, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, 31, of Brooklyn and Jennifer Santiago, 26, of Jamaica. Some of those cases are pending.

Officials said the scheme, which ran from Jan. 1, 2011 and Nov. 30, 2012, consisted of approaching adults with children and unaccompanied teenagers in Roosevelt Field mall, Queens Center, Smithtown Mall and other public places and telling them that the children or teenagers looked the part of a model.

New Faces required clients to purchase portfolios of pictures from the agency, officials said. It also told the families that major retailers, such as Macy's, Target and The Children's Place, had selected them for contracts and that the clients needed to pay money to secure their slots, officials said.

Victims paid between $500 and $5,100, Rice said.

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