The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has secured a conviction against a talent manager for illegally charging $110,000 for representation and other services.
“This conviction underscores our commitment to protect aspiring actors from scams that drain their savings and derail their careers,” said City Attorney Mike Feuer. “If you prey on the dreams of those who come to Hollywood to pursue their life’s goals, we will hold you accountable.”
Debra Baum, 53, entered a plea of no contest to one count of operating an advance fee talent service. Judge Debroah 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 $91,252.75 in restitution to the parents of the victims.
“SAG-AFTRA applauds City Attorney Mike Feuer and his talented 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.”
The City Attorney’s office said that Baum solicited a 19-year old in 2012 who 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 subsequently made to the City Attorney’s Office and investigated by the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs.