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L.A. cracks down on ‘pay to audition’ scams

City attorney sends warning letters to talent services

The city of Los Angeles is warning casting workshops and talent services that it’s serious about enforcing tightened state rules barring “pay to audition” scams.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich sent out about 200 letters this week, notifying the operators that the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act had gone into effect on Jan. 1.

He warned that a willful violation could bring both jail time and a $10,000 fine. “Please note that the talent service is not the only potential offender,” Trutanich said in his letter. “A person who aids and abets a violation of this statute is also criminally liable.”

Former Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank), now a member of the City Council, authored the legislation in response to prosecutors’ frustration over the lack of legislative teeth available to deal with con artists exploiting families who want their children to break into showbiz. The Screen Actors Guild sponsored the legislation, working with the City Attorney, the Better Business Bureau, the Assn. of Talent Agencies, AFTRA, the WGA and the BizParentz org.

Trutanich also said in the letter it had been sent out to ensure understanding of the new laws and obtain maximum compliance. “Your selection as a recipient of this letter is not necessarily indicative of any wrongful past conduct,” he added.

Deputy City Atty. Mark Lambert, who co-signed the letter, told Daily Variety on Wednesday that complaints from consumers about acting and modeling scams have persisted since the law took effect. The city hasn’t yet filed a complaint under the new law.

“People should know that they don’t have to pay for a job interview,” he added. “It’s sad that people accept this kind of situation in the entertainment industry.”

The law specifically prohibits talent services from engaging in the business of talent representation and from charging money upfront for the promise of securing jobs. It also requires such services to post a $50,000 bond with the state and calls for use of unambiguous language in contracts with aspiring performers.

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