Settlement With FTC Also Includes Total Judgment of $972,000
Defendants who controlled and operated Screen Test U.S.A. -- a bogus model and talent operation doing business from Connecticut to Florida -- have been permanently banned from marketing and selling their purported "screen test services" as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. In May 1999, the Commission filed a complaint in federal court in Newark, New Jersey alleging that Screen Test U.S.A. misrepresented that it evaluated the suitability of children to become models or actors. The FTC alleged that Screen Test U.S.A. misled consumers into believing that their chances of being selected by well-known talent agencies were enhanced by buying the defendants' program. The scam was spearheaded by Screen Test U.S.A.'s founder Fred Vanore , of Wayne, New Jersey and carried out by separately incorporated branches in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and Florida. The settlements announced today also contain a $972,000 judgment against all defendants. The FTC also amended its complaint to name four additional defendants.
According to the FTC, the defendants marketed and sold $45 "screen tests" primarily to parents of infants and young children. The defendants promised agency representation for those children who "passed" the screen test. In fact, the FTC alleged, the defendants used the screen test as a deceptive ploy to sell expensive, unnecessary packages of photos costing hundreds of dollars.
To add credibility to their activities, Screen Test U.S.A. encouraged parents to check them out by contacting the American Child Actor and Modeling Association (ACAMA), a so-called "leading independent, nonprofit organization formed to protect consumers from unethical business practices." In fact, ACAMA was nothing more than a sham corporation created by Fred Vanore to further the deceptive Screen Test U.S.A. scheme, the FTC charged. The FTC also alleged that the defendants violated the FTC's Cooling-Off Rule by refusing to give refunds to consumers who bought the program at hotels where the defendants sold the program in Massachussetts, Maryland and other states.
The FTC's complaint named Screen Test U.S.A., Inc., Fred Vanore and American Child Actor and Modeling Association, Inc., based in Wayne, New Jersey; Premier Marketing Inc. and Alice McManus, based in Kenilworth, New Jersey; R. J. Ims Corporation and Richard J. Ims, Jr., based in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania; Premier Marketing Inc., Show Biz Central of Westchester, Inc. and John Yannielli, based in Cheshire, Connecticut; and Tomorrow's Stars, Inc., Edward J. Bauer and Helen J. Bauer, based in Boca Raton, Florida. The amended complaint also named Angela Ims (Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania), Jeffrey C. McManus and JCM Marketing, Inc., (Miami, Florida) and Thomas J. Yannielli (New York, New York).
In six separate settlements entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on January 21, 2000, the defendants are banned from, among other things:
- conducting screen tests or making any other assessment of a person's acting or modeling abilities;
- directly or indirectly obtaining income from using a nonprofit organization they own or control to endorse, certify, evaluate or accredit any business; and
- using aliases.
The settlements also prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting:
- the need for or use of photographic services;
- the experience or professional qualifications of any person;
- the likelihood of business or employment success; and
- the independence or objectivity of any nonprofit organization.
In addition, the defendants are prohibited from violating the Cooling-Off Rule and from distributing or selling their customer lists or identification information. The settlements contain a total judgment of $972,000 which represents all existing assets of the corporate defendants and a portion of individual defendants' assets. The settlements also contain various recordkeeping provisions to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants' compliance.
The Commission received invaluable assistance from the Attorneys General for the States of Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the settlements in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, was 5-0. The matter was handled by the FTC's East Central Region.
NOTE: These stipulated final judgments and orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Consent judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the news release and documents associated with this matter are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC Matter No. X990057)
(Civil Action No. 99-2371)
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