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L.A. city attorney targets alleged talent scam

L.A. city attorney Mike Feuer targets alleged talent scam

A four-count criminal complaint has been filed by the Los Angeles city attorney's office against talent manager Debra Baum, alleging that she violated the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act by charging clients more than $100,000 in up-front fees.

California’s Krekorian Act, which went into effect in 2010, prohibits managers, agents and other people who represent actors to charge them any fees other than commissions.

According to a press release issued by City Atty. Mike Feuer, Baum allegedly solicited a 19-year-old singer in a hair salon, signing her to a $10,000-per-month management contract in 2012. By the time the deal was severed about seven months later, the singer’s family had paid Baum $70,000 in management fees, and spent thousands of dollars more with third parties on vocal training and other work.

The singer’s sister also is alleged to have been solicited into a contract with Baum, and paid her an additional $40,000.

The case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday. Baum, 53, faces up to two years in jail and $20,000 in fines if convicted.

Baum is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 5. She did not return phone calls seeking comment.

At a press conference announcing the charges Friday, Feuer said that his office would step up prosecution of those who violate the Krekorian Act.

“The entertainment industry is a magnet for thousands of people every year who come to our community to pursue their dreams of being a star,” Feuer said. “But there are those...who would prey on the thousands of people who come here to pursue their goals, and dash their dreams by taking unfair advantage of them and violating the law.”

Feuer said that his office would embark on a public awareness campaign – tapping social media and grass-roots organizations -- to educate Hollywood hopefuls on the Krekorian Act.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who when he served in the state Assembly authored the legislation that bears his name, said that aspiring child actors and their parents are often the victims of unscrupulous agents and managers.

Krekorian shared a personal story at the press conference, saying that his wife was once solicited by a person wanting to represent their young son.

“She was in a shopping mall and was approached by somebody when my little son Andrew was with her, and was asked: ‘Would you like your son to be in movies? We can help you make that happen.’ It happens again and again to families throughout Los Angeles,” Krekorian said. “Here’s the thing, legitimate representatives in this business do not use this business model.”

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