Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office has secured a conviction against a talent manager for illegally charging $110,000 for representation and other services.
The conviction follows the launch in January of a public awareness campaign to educate the public about Hollywood talent scams.
“This conviction underscores our commitment to protect aspiring actors from scams that drain their savings and derail their careers,” Feuer said. “If you prey on the dreams of those who come to Hollywood to pursue their life’s goals, we will hold you accountable.”
The defendant, Debra Baum, 53, pleaded no contest to one count of operating an advance fee talent service. Judge Deborah Brazil sentenced Baum to 36 months summary probation and ordered her to serve 45 days in jail or perform 20 days of community labor. Baum also agreed to pay approximately $91,250 in restitution to the parents of the victims. A progress report date on community labor and an “ability to pay” hearing are set for Sept 18.
In March 2012, Baum solicited a 19-year old victim she heard singing in a hair salon and signed her to a $10,000-per-month management contract to promote her vocal career. Before terminating the contract in September 2012, the victims’ family paid $70,000 in management fees to Baum, as well as thousands of dollars in third party expenses for vocal training, stylists and recordings.
Shortly thereafter, Baum persuaded the victim’s sister to enter into a similar contract to manage her acting career, resulting in the family paying an additional $40,000 to Baum in management fees. A complaint was made to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and the case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs.
“SAG-AFTRA applauds city attorney Mike Feuer and his team of attorneys for their commitment to providing meaningful and effective enforcement of the Talent Scam Prevention Act,” said SAG-AFTRA general counsel and chief operating officer Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “This law is a key element of protecting people from talent scams, but the best law would be meaningless without the efforts of law enforcement. We hope and expect that others who might be inclined to take advantage of people’s dreams to work in the entertainment industry will take this enforcement success to heart and think twice before crossing that line.”
For information on avoiding talent management schemes, visit www.atty.lacity.org/COMMUNITY/index.htm.
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