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City attorney presses criminal charges against talent services

January 12, 2011 |  3:23 pm

The Los Angeles city attorney's office has charged the operators of two local talent service companies with violating the state's talent scam prevention law.

The charges mark the latest crackdown on talent services and management companies by the city attorney's office, which has been on a campaign to ferret out abusive practices among firms that purport to help actors find jobs.

David Askaryar, 46, operator of Burbank-based Hollywood Stars Management Inc. and VIP Talent Web Inc., was charged with 16 criminal counts, including charging advance fees for actors, not posting a $50,000 bond with the State Labor Commission and failing to provide artists with written contracts. The case sprang from three complaints actors filed against the company in August, according to a press release by the city attorney's office.

In a separate case, the city attorney also stated that Ricardo Macias, 35, the owner of Los Angeles online listing service, was charged with 18 criminal counts, including grand theft, false advertising  and failing to file the required bond.

The City Attorney's Office said it had received 22 complaints nationwide about Macias' company. The complaints alleged that actors were required to pay a $98 fee in order to list themselves on the company's website and could not obtain any offers of work.

If convicted on all counts, Askaryar faces up to 13 1/2 years in jail and a $127,000 fine, while Macias could serve a maximum of seven years in prison and $40,000 in fines, the city attorney's office said. The men are to be arraigned Jan. 24 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Askaryar said the claims were baseless and that his fees and practices were legal.  “I haven’t seen the charges, but I’m not a criminal,’’ he said, attributing the allegations to a few disgruntled former clients. “They are ruining my name and my company name.”

Macias was not immediately available for comment.

The two talent service companies are the first to be charged under the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act of 2009, which prohibits agents, managers and others representing talent from charging actors fees other than commissions, among other requirements.

-- Richard Verrier