LOS ANGELES (CN) - A class action claims a financial services firm is trying to collect money from families who received financing as part of scam targeting aspiring child actors.
Lead plaintiff Randy Alltizer sued Monterey Financial Services in Superior Court. Allitzer says Monterey was the finance company for the defunct Los Angeles company, Be LLC.
He claims Be "took in millions of dollars in illegal fees from thousands of California families," so their children could audition for talent agents, in violation of California's Advance-Fee-Talent Services Act.
"Monterey acted as Be's finance company," the complaint states. "Monterey purchased the contracts Be made with its customers, and collected a substantial portion of the money purportedly owed by consumers under Be's contracts.
"The California Legislature passed AFTSA [the Advance-Fee-Talent Services Act] to prevent and prohibit essentially the exact scheme perpetrated by Be."
Allitzer claims that Be also signed clients to contracts without rights to refunds or to cancel.
Alltizer claims that his child was invited to a Be screen test. He says he signed a contract with Be in 2008, based on its promise that it would provide access to auditions to talent agents.
But Allitzer claims, for the class, that "ability to pay," not talent, was what mattered to Be, which only created a "perception that Be's membership was exclusive and based on merit."
After child actors were told they had made the cut, Be offered their families a package costing $2,500 to $5,000 per child, Allitzer says.
"If the family could not afford Be's service fee upfront, Be's talent directors would seek financing for Be's service fee from Monterey," according to the complaint.
Be then offered children a chance to audition in "talent showcases," through its affiliate, Dynamic Showcases, the complaint states. "Be paid talent agents, talent managers, and/or casting directors roughly $150 to $175 to attend these showcases," the complaint states, for which Dynamic charged Be's clients $25 a head.
But "Dynamic Showcases could not operate economically in this manner," so "Be's services fees effectively subsidized Dynamic Showcases' operations," Allitzer says.
Allitzer claims the scheme unraveled after investigative reports by NBC and ABC affiliates in San Francisco in 2008.
Then two Be customers sued and a federal judge ruled that the service contracts violated the Advance-Fee-Talent Services Act, according to the complaint.
After Be closed shop, Monterey Financial tried to collect the unpaid bills, Alitzer says.
"Despite such express and/or implied knowledge of the illegality of Be's contracts, Monterey has continued to attempt to collect on these contracts, Monterey has continued to dun former customers of Be for unpaid balances on Be contracts and has reported and to threaten to report the unpaid balances to credit reporting agencies," the complaint states.
Allitzer seeks restitution, class damages for unfair competition and consumer law violations, an injunction and costs.
He is represented by David Parisi with Parisi & Havens, of Sherman Oaks.
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