LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has secured a conviction against a talent manager for illegally charging $110,000 for representation and other services. The conviction follows the January 2015 launch of a public awareness campaign in coordination with the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs and entertainment industry advocacy groups to educate the public against Hollywood talent scams.
“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. A progress report date on Community Labor and an "ability to pay" hearing are set for Sept 18, 2015.
"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.”
In March 2012, Baum solicited a 19-year old 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.
Educational materials for aspiring entertainers on how best to avoid being bilked by similar schemes can be found on the City Attorney’s website:
The Talent Scam Prevention Act (AB1319 in 2010) authored by then Assemblymember and now City Councilmember Paul Krekorian prohibits talent agents and talent managers from charging an advance fee for representation as well as requiring clients of talent training, talent counseling and talent listing services to purchase photographs, websites and other promotional materials as a condition for using or for obtaining preferential treatment from that service. The legislation also requires that every contract with an artist provide notice of cancellation and refund procedures and prohibit automatic renewal without consent.
Deputy City Attorney Mark Lambert successfully prosecuted the case.