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DA: Hicksville modeling agency head cheated clients

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and New

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman appear at a news conference on modeling agency workers charged in a scam. (Sept. 17, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The fugitive head of a Hicksville modeling agency was nabbed in Florida on charges of conning clients out of more than $250,000 by promising high-end jobs that didn't exist, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Wednesday.

James Muniz, 44, of Roslyn, failed to surrender on Sept. 18 to Nassau authorities and was found staying with relatives in Hialeah, Fla., near Miami, Rice's office said.

After three of Muniz's employees were arrested last month, prosecutors said they had received about 300 calls from clients complaining about Model Talent Development Corp., also known as New Faces Development Center.

Rice said investigators have found 50 victims so far, and expect to document scores more.

Between 2010 and last November, when Muniz's business closed, his scouts went to malls and other places to tell teenagers they had "the look" of a professional model, authorities said.

The agency collected as much as $10,000 from clients for photo shoots and promises of jobs, according to a five-month investigation by Rice and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

With help from Florida law enforcement, Rice's investigators on Tuesday arrested Muniz, who is being held in a Miami-Dade County jail until his extradition.

Muniz, the modeling agency's chief executive, was charged last month with cheating clients, misrepresenting terms of contracts, and promising nonexistent lucrative jobs with fashion designers and others. Muniz's marketing and senior development directors and his vice president for operations were arraigned on grand larceny charges and released on their own recognizance.

Muniz was charged with five counts of third-degree grand larceny, 15 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud.

Scheiderman vowed Wednesday to get money back for victims.

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