Utah Department of Commerce issues 70 count citation to Tru Talent

An undercover investigation has lead the Utah Department of Commerce to issue a 70 count citation to Tru Talent for deceptive sales practices. Among others, the allegations include:

Since at least 2007, and continuing thereafter, Respondents Tru Talent Management SLC, Inc. (TTM) and Brandie Lee Frommelt have engaged in. or caused others to engage in, a variety of deceptive acts or practices to induce consumers into purchasing acting and/or modeling classes and other related services such as headshots and fashion photography.

An undercover investigation has lead the Utah Department of Commerce to issue a 70 count citation to Tru Talent for deceptive sales practices. Among others, the allegations include:

Since at least 2007, and continuing thereafter, Respondents Tru Talent Management SLC, Inc. (TTM) and Brandie Lee Frommelt have engaged in. or caused others to engage in, a variety of deceptive acts or practices to induce consumers into purchasing acting and/or modeling classes and other related services such as headshots and fashion photography.

Respondents have marketed a scheme that will purportedly help consumers make their dream of becoming an actor or fashion model a reality. Respondent’s talent scouts use untrue statements to solicit names and phone numbers from potential consumers.

Respondent’s telemarketers call scouted consumers and use untrue statements to entice them to come in for an audition. At Respondent’s place of business, consumers meet with sales agents, a/k/a new face agents, who use untrue statements to get consumers to sign contracts for modeling and/or acting classes and photography. Respondent’s contract requires consumers to purchase a minimum of six (6) photographs at $40.00 per photograph. Respondent’s use untrue statements to up-sell photographs to each client. In addition, Respondent’s website misrepresents that TTM has been in business for “over 12 years”, when in fact TTM has only been in business since 2005.

The full citation pdf can be found here and the converted version follows below. Note the converted version may contain errors.

BEFORE THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER PROTECTIONOF THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCEOF THE STATE OF UTAHIN THE MATTER OF:TRU TALENT MANAGEMENT SLC, INC. andBRANDIE LEE FROMMELTDCP Case #74016RespondentsAMENDED ADMINISTRATIVE CITATION(Amended as to date only page 6)                                                                          ^PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORITY granted by Utah CODE ANNOTATED §13-2-6(3), asamended, which empowers the Division of Consumer Protection to issue a citation upon anyperson reasonably believed to be engaged in the violation of any statute listed in UTAH CodeAnnotated §13-2-1, as amended, it appears, upon information and belief, that you are inviolation of the Consumer Sales Practices Act, Utah Code ANNOTATED §13-11-4 er seq. Inparticular, the Division of Consumer Protection alleges: 

1. Since at least 2007, and continuing thereafter, Respondents Tru Talent Management SLC,Inc. (TTM) and Brandie Lee Frommelt have engaged in. or caused others to engage in, avariety of deceptive acts or practices to induce consumers into purchasing acting and/ormodeling classes and other related services such as headshots and fashion photography.Respondents have marketed a scheme that will purportedly help consumers make theirdream of becoming an actor or fashion model a reality. Respondent’s talent scouts useuntrue statements to solicit names and phone numbers from potential consumers.Respondent’s telemarketers call scouted consumers and use untrue statements to enticethem to come in for an audition. At Respondent’s place of business, consumers meetwith sales agents, a/k/a new face agents, who use untrue statements to get consumers tosign contracts for modeling and/or acting classes and photography. Respondent’scontract requires consumers to purchase a minimum of six (6) photographs at $40.00 perphotograph. Respondent’s use untrue statements to up-sell photographs to each client. Inaddition, Respondent’s website misrepresents that TTM has been in business for “over 12years”, when in fact TTM has only been in business since 2005.

2. From October 2010 until this date I received consumer complaints from the followingconsumers. Trisha Allen-Gibby, Shannon McQueen, Vanessa Grancagnolo, AmberBowden, Monica Medina, and Karen Montreal. The allegations from these six (6)consumers are consistent with the information contained in this citation.

3. From October 2010 until this date I met with and interviewed six (6) previous employeesof Respondents. The employees are listed, along with their past jobs positions, asfollows. Gabriela Perez (Booking Agent), James McGuire (Scout, Telemarketer, SalesAgent), Robb Johnson (Sales Agent, Manager), Mario Garcia (Sales Agent, Manager),Carrie Thayn (Chief Financial Officer), and Rafael Lima (Collector). Through myinterviews with the above previous employees the following scheme was uncovered.

4. Respondent’s talent scouts solicit consumers in malls, restaurants, stores, public eventsand other public places that have a large population of people. Respondent’s talent scoutstarget parents with babies and children, teens, adults, senior citizens, and handicappedpersons. Talent scouts use untrue statements with potential consumers to get them toprovide the talent scout with the consumers name and phone number. Some types ofuntrue statements made by talent scouts are consumers could be an actor or model formagazines, television commercials and even movies that TTM is involved with. Talentscouts tell consumers that TTM has upcoming auditions for companies such as Toys RUs, Pediped shoes, Baby Gap, Ikea, Pottery Barn, Shopko. In addition, talent scouts tellconsumers that TTM has auditions for movies such as Hunger Games and Disney moviessuch as Ant Farm and High School Musical 4. These statements are untrue because TTMdoes not have the authority to do auditions for those companies and movies. Talentscouts are told to say it’s a “free audition”, when in fact the scheme is to sign consumersup for paid acting and/or modeling classes and photography.

5. Respondent’s telemarketers call scouted consumers and use untrue statements to enticeconsumers into coming in for an audition. Telemarketers use statements such as “Myassistant thought you were really good looking”, “You might be perfect for some parts”,”We have an audition coming up that I thought you might be perfect for”, or “We workwith Disney”. Telemarketers are taught to say anything to get consumers to come in for asales appointment. Telemarketers are required to schedule a minimum number of leadsper day or they have to stay after hours until the schedule is full. If new leads are notenough to ill the schedule, telemarketers are told to go through old leads and try toschedule them.

6. Respondent’s sales agents then meet with consumers at TTM. The sales agent’s job is touse whatever means necessary to sell the scouted consumers “the dream” and convincethem they have talent. Sales agents are taught to make sure consumers don’t do well their “auditions” so a sale can be made for classes. Sales agents have consumers read apart, or demonstrate modeling skills, however, no matter how well the consumer does, theconsumer is told they need to take classes. The sales agents tells the consumer that withthe right training and photos they will have a better chance of geting booked for a movie,modeling job or both. To make Respondents and commissioned sales agents’ money,sales agents have to sign consumers up for acting and/or modeling classes andphotographs. Any consumer who can pay is signed up regardless of their talents orabilities. Consumers are required to sign a contract and nearly all consumers sign afinance contract through Respondents in-house financing at 18% per annum. After thescouted individual has signed the contract, the sales agent automatically schedules themfor a photo shoot and acting and/or modeling classes so TTM can say that services wererendered, which will make it harder for the talent to back out of their contract.

7. Respondent’s photographer is a make-up artist, not a professional photographer.Photographs are an important part of the scheme because they yield high profits forRespondents. Consumers come in and the make-up artist gets them ready forphotographs and then takes the photographs. Several shots are taken and consumers aretold they have to buy a minimum of six (6) photographs at $40.00 each. Consumers arealways told they should buy 12 photographs at $40.00 each, which is unnecessary butincreases Respondents profits. The photos are sent to two graphic atists to be edited,which are Ms. Frommelt’s mother and aunt.

8.  Respondents only employ one booking agent. The booking agent has about 4000consumers in their data base and the majority is babies and children. The number ofactual bookings, compared to the number of paid consumers on ile, is few and farbetween. The booking agent sends out emails and notices of fake auditions and photoshoot submissions to consumers to perpetuate the scheme. Many times Respondentsaccept photo submissions from consumers and the photos are not mailed out by thebooking agent. Since 2007, only ive (5) or six (6) TTM consumers have made enoughmoney to pay off their contracts and photographs. Since 2007, no TTM consumers havemade as much as $30,000.00 per year as an actor and/or model.

9. Respondents run credit reports on consumers who sign inance contracts. Thoseconsumers who sign inance contracts, with a credit score of 690 or higher, have theirfinance contracts sold to another company which Ms. Frommelt’s father, Walt Frommeltowns. The name of this company is RMF Rocky Mountain Financial (RMF). RMF paysRespondents 87% of the inance contracts value. The collections on the RMF contractsare still made in-house by Respondent’s collection employee. Once a month Respondentsprint out a spread sheet of accounts for Mr. Frommelt and then Mr. Frommelt writes aRMF check to Respondents. Respondents then collect on the finance contracts anddeposit the money into the RMF bank account. Those consumers that stop paying aresubjected to aggressive collection techniques by Respondents. Some accounts are sent tocollections through a third party collection agency. Accounts that are sent to collectionsfrom RMF are repurchased by Respondents.

10. On December 10, 2010, Respondents were mailed a “Cease and Desist” letter rom LionsGate Entertainment Inc. (LGE) regarding Respondents falsely advertising auditions andcasting calls for the movie “Plunger Games”. A copy of the leter from LGE was mailedto the Utah Atorney General’s Office and then forwarded to Utah Consumer Protection.

11. On January 6, 2011, Investigator Glen Minson and Investigator Spencer Heward wereapproached by a TTM scout while eating at a restaurant. Investigator Minson was told hecould be a model for a magazine like “Vogue” or a model for television commercials andeven movies. Investigator Minson was told he would get a minimum of two modelingopportunities per month and there was no upfront payment. Investigator Minson was toldthat TTM makes money rom a percentage of the work they ind for their models.Investigator Minson asked if he had to have TTM do the photo shoot and InvestigatorMinson was told he didn’t need to.

12. On January 13, 2011, Investigators Minson and Heward went to TTM in an undercoverrole to determine what misrepresentations were being made by TTM during the recruitingprocess. Investigators met with sales agent Fernanda “Nanda” Galhardo and thefollowing untrue statements were told to investigators. Ms. Galhardo stated TTM is thenumber one booking agency and modeling agency in Utah. Ms. Galhardo stated castingdirectors are currently looking for tall guys, which is why Investigator Minson wasrecruited. Ms. Galhardo indicated TTM is the only talent agency in the valley that offerslifetime photography and that he’d never have to pay for photography again. Ms.Galhardo advised Investigator Minson he should take both modeling and acting classes.Ms. Galhardo stated “if you’re not working, I don’t get paid.” Ms. Galhardo indicatedshe gets 20% of the fee when she books a talent. Ms. Galhardo claimed she doesn’t workwith just anyone and actually works with very few people because she only wants to workwith people that will make her money. Ms. Galhardo states she guarantees there will bean audition available every two weeks. Ms. Galhardo stated TTM has a “huge” contractwith Disney.

13. On February 1,2011, Investigator Glen Minson spoke with attorney Stuart Kxicin romDisney legal department. Mr. Kricin stated he spoke with the production ofice of SaltyPictures (SP), which is a production entity that has produced a lot of Disney Channelmotion pictures in Utah. Mr. Kricin also spoke with Jeff Johnson, an independent castingdirector that works in Utah and has done casting for SP. Mr. Kricin advised that TTM’srepresentation of having a “huge contract” with Disney is false. Mr. Kricin advised hehas been unable to ind that TTM has any contracts with Disney. Mr. Kricin stated it wasmisleading for TTM to advertise auditions for “Ant Farm” because Disney would nothave been doing auditions like the flyer represents. Mr. Kricin stated “Ant Farm” is apilot that is in production for Disney Channel. Mr. Kricin stated an audition forsomething like “Ant Farm” would involve the talent going in front of a casting directorand not something where they would be submitting a picture for an “audition.”

14. That on February 23. 2011, Investigator Minson and myself interviewed Jeff Johnson, anindependent casting director in Utah. Mr. Johnson does a large percentage, if not themajority, of the casting for Disney in Utah. During this interview Mr. Johnson indicatedTTM would not have a contract with Disney. Mr. Johnson advised TTM ranks at thebotom of his list as far as his approval of the business practices of the talent agencies heworks with. Mr. Johnson advised he has spoken with Ms. Frommelt on numerousoccasions over the last several years and repeatedly warned her about not using Disney’sname or his name inappropriately to recruit talent. Mr. Johnson claims that every time hehears something regarding TTM inappropriately representing an afiliation they don’thave, he mentions it to Ms. Frommelt but she blames the scouts or sales agents.

15. During this interview Mr. Johnson was shown a printout of TTM’s website whichshowed TTM using a picture advertisement for High School Musical 3, which leaves animpression TTM was or is affiliated directly with that movie. Mr. Johnson states this isnot the case and TTM should not be using images or representations like that. Mr.Johnson advised that he has heard that people at TTM have told some consumers theywere guaranteed a role in High School Musical 4. Mr. Johnson believes it is deceptive tomake representations like that to consumers because TTM has no control over who isgoing to get any part in a film.

16. During this interview Mr. Johnson was presented with an audition flyer sent outpreviously to TTM consumers about a Disney Channel audition called “Ant Farm.” Thedescription on the flyer stated TTM consumers could go to TTM’s location and haveheadshots taken and they would be submited to Disney. Mr. Johnson indicated that isnot an audition. An audition would be in front of a casting director where you are beingconsidered for a specific part for a speciic project. Mr. Johnson pointed out that the “AntFarm” flyer sent to TTM consumers was misleading because it stated Disney was castingfor “extras and featured roles.” Mr. Johnson indicated “Ant Farm” was not being ilmedin Utah and the industry doesn’t typically hire extras from outside the state where the ilmis being shot due expense, time, and availability issues in doing so.

17. During this interview Mr. Johnson stated he is aware of many of the allegations andalleged deceptive practices TTM is utilizing based on what he hears in the industry andfrom consumers. Mr. Johnson believes it is unethical to charge as much as TTM does forthe modeling and acting classes. Mr. Johnson indicated the photography quality romTTM is substandard based on what he gets from other photographers that shoot consumerheadshots and photographs. Mr. Johnson believes TTM is only interested in signingtalent and collecting money, not finding talent work. Mr. Johnson stated, “They don’tcare if they get a booking or not.”

18. During this interview Mr. Johnson stated he believes some people might need acting andmodeling classes, but he doesn’t think TTM does a very good job of doing them. Weasked Mr. Johnson if it was true that 30% of all movies are made in Utah, which is arepresentation being made by certain TTM employees. Mr. Johnson said Utah is not evenin the top three states for ilm production. Mr. Johnson guessed that maybe 1 % of allmovies are made in Utah. Johnson stated Utah is a very small movie market. Mr.Johnson stated he might see 700 to 1000 people for a ilm he is casting and only hire 15.

19. During this interview we asked Mr. Johnson if he thought having approximately 4000consumers on ile with one booking agent was reasonable based on industry standards.Mr. Johnson believed having that many consumers, with such a limited number of jobs inUtah, would prevent any agency rom being able to make claims about their ability toactually place consumers with regular frequency. Mr. Johnson stated this industry istough and most people make very litle, if any, money as a model or actor in Utah. Mr.Johnson stated people will work in the industry for decades and still be struggling to indwork or make any money. Mr. Johnson advised he does not believe TTM’s businessmodel was sustainable if TTM were to conduct their business like other talent agenciesand primarily seek compensation from booking clients. Mr. Johnson does not believeMs. Frommelt is oblivious to the potentially deceptive practices he hears about in hisexperience. Mr. Johnson indicated jobs for babies and children are much rarer than jobsfor teens and adults. Because of the labor restrictions, babies and children are not idealfor casting in anything. In fact, Mr. Johnson stated they will often cast people over theage of 18 that look younger so they don’t run afoul of labor laws.

The above actions are in violation of one or more of the following subsections of the ConsumerSales Practices Act, Utah Code Annotated §13-11-4, Deceptive act or practice by supplier.

(1) A deceptive act or practice by a supplier in connection with a consumer transactionviolates this chapter whether it occurs before, during, or after the transaction.(2) Without limiting the scope of Subsection (1), a supplier commits a deceptive act orpractice if the supplier knowingly or intentionally:

(a) indicates that the subject of a consumer transaction has sponsorship, approval,performance characteristics, accessories, uses, or benefits, if it has not.(b) indicates that the subject of a consumer transaction is of a particular standard, quality,grade, style, or model, if it is not;(d) indicates that the subject of a consumer transaction is available to the consumer for areason that does not exist;(e) indicates that the subject of a consumer transaction has been supplied in accordancewith a previous representation, if it has not;(h) indicates that a specific price advantage exists, if it does not;(i) indicates that the supplier has a sponsorship, approval, or afiliation the supplier doesnot have.

(70 Counts-Potential Fine $175,000)(This citation may be amended or supplemented based on an ongoing investigation)THIS CITATION ISSUED this the 14th day of March 20David P. Furlong, InvestigatorUtah Division of Consumer Protection

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICETHIS IS TO CERTIFY that the undersigned duly mailed by regular mail and certified mail a trueand exact copy of the above and foregoing Administrative Citation to the following:BRENNAN H MOSSPIA ANDERSON DORTUS REYNARD & MOSS222 S MAIN ST, STE 1800SALT LAKE CITY UT 84101-2194SP/?David P. Furlong, InvestigatorUtah Division of Consumer Protection

IMPORTANT NOTICE – READ CAREFULLYThis citation may be contested by iling a request for a hearing, in writing, within ten (10) daysfrom receipt of this citation. Such hearing shall be conducted as an informal hearing under Title63, Chapter 46b, of the Administrative Procedures Act. A citation which is not so contestedbecomes the inal order of the Division and is not subject to further agency review. In addition toany ines which might be levied, a cease and desist order shall be entered against you. Anintentional violation of a inal cease and desist order is a third degree felony pursuant to UtahCode Annotated 13-2-6(2) as amended. If you desire a hearing on this citation you may mail yourrequest to:Thad Levar, Interim DirectorUtah Division of Consumer ProtectionPO Box 146704Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6704Please be advised that all inquiries, correspondence, or other contacts concerning this citation,with the exception of any written request for hearing as set out above, should be directed to thebelow named Division employee, designated by the Director of the Division of ConsumerProtection pursuant to Utah Code Annotated §13-2-6(3)(a)(iv) and §63-46b-3(2)(a)(i)(1953),as amended:David P. Furlong, InvestigatorUtah Division of Consumer Protection160 East 300 SouthPOBox 146704Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6704Telephone:                                                                                           (801) 530-6601

DIVISION of consumer protectionDEPARTMENT OF COMMERCESTATE OF UTAH160 EAST                                                                                                            300 SOUTHP.O. BOX                                                                                                            14 6704SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH                                                                                                                                                     84114-6704INFORMAL HEARINGS BEFORE THEDIVISION OF CONSUMER PROTECTIONYou may request an informal hearing to contest an administrative citation issuedby the Division of Consumer Protection within ten                                                                   (10) business days after thedate of the citation.  Your request should be in writing, include the case numberfrom your citation, and be directed to the Director of the Utah Division ofConsumer Protection at the address listed above.  As you prepare for yourhearing, please keep in mind all of the following:Notice: You will receive a Notice of Administrative Hearing with the time and date of the hearing. On the day ofthe hearing the Division receptionist, at the address listed above on the second floor, will give you the roomnumber for the hearing. The name of the presiding officer for the hearing is on that notice. Please address thepresiding officer by name (e.g. “Mr. Smith”).Open Heaing: The hearing is open to all paties, and is open to the public unless closed by the presiding officer.The Division will record the hearing.Access to Information: Discovery is prohibited, but parties may have access to all materials and information theDivision intends to present at the hearing. You may contact the investigator or licensor whose name appears onyour citation to request access to this information.Legal Representation: You may represent yourself or be represented by an atorney. Ordinarily the Division isnot represented by an attorney at hearings.Issues: The primary issues for the hearing are:Was there a factual and legal basis to issue the citation?If so, was it fair to issue the citation?If  so,   what   is  the  appropriate  penalty?Burden of Proof: If you are denying the offense, the Division is responsible to prove its case against you by apreponderance of the evidence. If you are admitting the offense, you are responsible to prove that the citationshould be dismissed or that the penalty should be reduced.Evidence: All paties may testify, present evidence, and comment on the issues. In presenting evidence, any patymay examine witnesses and submit exhibits. At the request of either party, or at his or her own initiative, thepresiding officer may examine a witness. Any party may ask to present a witness by telephone. The presidingoficer will exclude any evidence he or she deems irrelevant, repetitious, or improper.Final Order: Following the hearing, the presiding officer will take the mater under advisement and make arecommendation to the Division Director, who will issue a Final Order to uphold, dismiss, or modify the citation.The Final Order will include a notice of any right of administrative or judicial review.You should not rely on this letter alone for instructions regarding informalhearings.  The hearing is governed by law                                                                                                                                                                                                   (Utah Administrative Procedures Act:Utah Code Title                                                                                                                                                          63G, Chapter                                                                                                                                              4; Division of Consumer Protection: Utah Code Title13, Chapter                                                                                                         2)                                                   and rule  (Department of Commerce Administrative Procedures Act                                                                                                                                                                                        Rules:  Utah Admin. Code R151-46b).  You may access these laws and rules at your  local library or at the following Internet site    http://www.le.state,ut.us/~code/TITLE63G/63G04.htmhttp://www.le.state.ut.us/-code/TITLE13/13                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         02 .htm