Mineola - (WALK) The former owner of a Long Island child modeling and talent agency will spend up to five years in prison for stealing thousands of dollars from dozens of clients.
James Muniz, 45, of Smithtown pleaded guilty to charges including grand larceny, conspiracy and scheme to defraud. He was sentenced Friday to serve 2.5 to 5 years in prison.
Muniz conned at least 100 parents out of a total of more than $236,000 dollars to push their kid's careers. Prosecutors say Muniz charged client-victims of his Hicksville-based "New Faces Development Center" and “Model Talent Development Corp.,” for services including photography and portfolios, billing between $500 and $5,100. He also promised their children would be cast as actors or featured in ad campaigns for major retailers, and demanded money to secure the fictitious gigs.
“With one broken promise after another, James Muniz and his accomplices turned the hopes and dreams of parents for a better life for their children into a moneymaking enterprise based entirely on taking advantage of others for a quick buck,” said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
Muniz also admitted working with co-defendants Jennifer Santiago, 26, of Jamaica, Queens; Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, 31, of Brooklyn; and Michelle Alperin-Smith, 43, of Nesconset. Some of their cases are pending, said Nassau prosecutors.
Prosecutors say Muniz and his associates often approached teens and parents with their children at shopping malls in Suffolk, Nassau and Queens to pitch "New Faces" and “Model Talent” as their path to careers in acting and modeling.