Monday, June 2, 2008

Seattle Investigative Report

In Seattle on Friday, May 30th, 2008, our local ABC Affiliate ran the following story:

There is a clip of the video if you want to watch it.

Families scammed out of fortune, dreams of fame
Story Published: May 30, 2008 at 8:23 PM PDT
Story Updated: May 30, 2008 at 11:52 PM PDT
KOMO Staff
Watch the story

TACOMA, Wash. -- Parents who paid thousands of dollars for acting and modeling classes for their children learned on Friday that they'd been swindled out of a fortune by people who falsely promised to lead their kids on a road to fame.

Acting school is canceled, dreams are dashed and the money is gone.Parents of Kaila and Zachary Edwards forked over nearly $5,000 they didn't have to Pacific Modeling and Acting Academy to fuel their children's dreams.

"I want to be famous and be on Hanna Montana," said 7-year-old Kaila."Become an actor, go famous," said Zachary.But on Friday their dreams hit a major block.

The modeling and acting school, which just opened last February, shut down after declaring bankruptcy. The nearly 200 families that had enrolled were left stunned."We invested," said parent David Winkler. "We invested our heart,s our love and it got shattered."The academy operated out of the Sheraton Hotel with teachers and big flat-screen TVs in each room. Kids were filmed rehearsing commercials, and parents say the whole thing seemed like the road to making it big.

"(They said) 'you're going to LA for interviews - get your resume ready and your photos - and you're going to meet these agents.' And it all never happened," said Dennis Oswalt.Oswalt spent $6,700 on photos and classes after his 6 year old got a call back. Daniel was among the chosen children. Now he's one of the disappointed."He's heart broken," his father said."It was so abrupt, so sudden. I got the call.

'No more classes, families won't get paid, employees won't get paid because the company filed for bankruptcy," said former employee Tatevik Aprikyan.

Dolores Rawlins wrote a huge credit card check to fund her daughter's dreams."Nearly $12, 000. Crazy, I know, but I thought it was their future," she said.But her daughter's aspirations would have to wait. The next day Rawlins had a gut feeling that made her cancel the check."The biggest red flag was when I went to see where they were located there wasn't anything there," she said.The space never opened and classes continued at the hotel. Rawlins got her money back but the others don't know if they'll be as lucky.

They're filing complaints with the Attorney General's Office."It's over a million dollars they took from everybody. That's a lot of money," Oswalt said.The company owner in California did not return KOMO's calls. A former employee says her bankrupt boss recently opened nine more modeling and acting schools across the country with the average family paying $5,000 to enroll.

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