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Operators of talent service companies charged

Los Angeles cracks down on talent management scams. David Askaryar of Hollywood Stars Management and VIP Talent Web and Ricardo Macias of ActorsOnSet.com face more than a dozen charges each.

January 13, 2011|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles city attorney's office has charged the operators of two local talent service companies with violating the state's talent scam prevention law.

The charges mark the latest crackdown on talent management and services companies by the office, which has been on a campaign to ferret out abusive practices by firms that purport to help actors find jobs.

David Askaryar, 46, operator of Burbank-based Hollywood Stars Management Inc. and VIP Talent Web Inc., was charged with 16 criminal counts, including charging advance fees for actors, not posting a $50,000 bond with the state labor commissioner and failing to provide artists with written contracts with required disclosures.

The case sprang from three complaints actors filed against Askaryar in August, according to a news release by the city attorney's office.

In an unrelated case, the city attorney said Ricardo Macias, 35, owner of Los Angeles online listing service ActorsOnSet.com, was charged with 18 counts, including grand theft, false advertising and failing to file the required bond.

The city attorney's office said it had received 22 complaints nationwide about Macias' company. The complaints alleged that actors were required to pay a $98 fee to list themselves on the company's website and could not obtain any offers of work.

If convicted on all counts, Askaryar faces up to 131/2 years in prison and a $127,000 fine, and Macias could serve a maximum of seven years in prison and be ordered to pay $40,000 in fines, the city attorney's office said. The men are to be arraigned Jan. 24 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Askaryar said that the charges were baseless and that his fees and practices were legal.

"I haven't seen the charges, but I'm not a criminal," he said, attributing the allegations to a few disgruntled former clients. "They are ruining my name and my company name."

Macias was not immediately available for comment.

The two talent service companies are the first to be charged under the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act of 2009, which prohibits agents, managers and others representing talent from charging actors fees other than commissions, among other requirements.

"The city attorney's office is vigorously prosecuting talent services that don't comply with the act, and this is the first of many more cases," Deputy City Attorney Mark Lambert said.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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