Hollywood Agent Accused of a Welter of Sins
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Actor Michael Madsen's talent agency claims that another agent posed as the actor's exclusive representative to defraud it of commissions.
Kismet Talent Agency sued Peter Strain, of Studio City; the Peter Strain Agency; Peter Strain & Associates, and The Strain Group in Superior Court. Strain represented television, film and stage actors.
Strain pleaded guilty in March in Manhattan Federal Court to stealing half a million dollars from three clients. Prosecutors said Strain spent the money on luxury goods and artwork.
Now, Kismet claims that over a 4-year period, Strain told companies that hired Madsen to send him the commissions for the actor's bookings, though Madsen has an exclusive contract with Kismet.
"Plaintiff did not find out about this secretive diversion of plaintiff's commissions until June 3, 2013 when a production company contacted plaintiff's principal because they purportedly could not get a hold of defendant, with whom they had previously booked this client [Madsen]. Defendants held themselves out as the agent of the client and collected commissions based thereon," the lawsuit states.
Kismet says it told Strain to stop posing as Madsen's agent but he continued to do so, and to steal commissions.
Strain's conduct has "destroyed plaintiffs' credibility in the industry with respect to said client," the agency claims.
Kismet seeks an accounting of defendants' books and exemplary damages for money had and received, fraud and intentional tort.
In the New York case, prosecutors said Strain, 64, spent $161,000 of his clients' money on jewelry, more than $310,000 on artwork, and more than $57,000 on luxury items.
"Peter Strain was making the old saying of robbing one person to pay someone else come to life," New York FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said after Strain's guilty plea.
"In this case he was robbing his clients and then paying himself, lying all along the way to try to cover his tracks. Embezzling more than a half a million dollars from clients is a serious offense," Venizelos said.
Strain pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of stolen property, and could face up to 10 years in prison. He was to be sentenced this morning by U.S. District Judge George Daniels.
After Strain filed for bankruptcy last year, his former client, "The Wire" actor John Doman, sued him for embezzlement in bankruptcy court, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Strain waged a legal fight over control of his firm Peter Strain & Associates, and in 2011 was sued in New York Supreme Court by his former partners.
Doman's lawsuit was resolved this year, while the New York action was discontinued with the blessing of both parties in December 2013, according to the Hollywood Reporter said.
Kismet is represented by Vicki Roberts of Santa Monica.