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Illinois Cracks Down on ‘Talent Agencies’

CHICAGO (CN) - The Illinois Attorney General sued two Chicago-based model and talent agencies, saying they took thousands of dollars for services they did not provide, and ignored demands for refunds. Latte Model and Talent Agency dba Rem Studios, and Glamour Model Talent face separate complaints in Cook County Court.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says Rem Studios, and its president Robert Owczarek-Latte, charged customers more than $5,200 for a package that included photos, air fare and admission to an international modeling convention, but failed to deliver on its promises, and failed to pay refunds when the convention was canceled.

Latte Model and Talent - an "involuntarily dissolved" corporation - had been advertising since 2004, and did not require its customers to have any formal training, Madigan says. The attorney general says Latte targeted people who use social media Web sites such as Facebook, for "modeling and talent opportunities," and sometimes targeted non-English speakers.

Madigan says Latte regularly offered modeling and acting classes, then canceled classes without paying refunds.

The attorney general says Latte asked some people to attend the International Modeling and Talent Association convention - which is held twice a year - and charged $5,295 to participate, including a $995 down payment. If the person chose to bring a guest, such as a parent, Latte charged another $2,995, according to the complaint.

The package purportedly included acting and modeling lessons, registration, career counseling, hotel accommodations, airfare, transportation to and from the airport, a photo shoot with CDs of the photographs, seminars, and fees for five competitions.

But Madigan says that Latte failed to register or represent some participants, did not train them as promised, did not provide transportation as promised, failed to send photography discs, music and other competition data to the convention as promised and then ignored complaints.

The attorney general also sued Glamour Model Talent and its president, John Vuolo. Madigan says Vuolo promises free services, then requires customers to pay $99 for low-quality test photos, while falsely informing them that the company had a large client database, including Sears and the Gap.

Madigan says Glamour agents persuade its customers to pay $400 to $500 for portfolio photos by claiming that a client was interested in hiring them. But it did not provide many customers with work, and often ignored customers who complained, Madigan says.

In both cases, Madigan seeks injunctions and up to $50,000 in civil fines per violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act. Madigan also wants Latte fined up to $50,000 per violation of the Travel Promotion Consumer Protection Act.

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