FOX 8 Defenders: Group of model hopefuls out thousands is far-reaching, could become criminal case
The number of consumers who say they didn’t get what was promised in their pursuit of a modeling career is far-reaching. Our Fox 8 Defenders investigation looks into whether what we exposed could be a criminal case.
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - “You have documentation and you have a multitude of people, which shows a pattern of behavior,” FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti said in response to our ongoing FOX 8 Defenders investigation of a local model and talent agency and consultant.
A growing number of consumers in pursuit of a modeling career have reached out to the FOX 8 Defenders with similar experiences.
From Orleans and Jefferson Parishes to St. John, St. James, the North Shore and beyond, we’ve heard from model hopefuls and parents of underage children looking to fulfill a dream.
We’ve also heard from consumers outside of Louisiana, in Mississippi and Alabama. A mother who lives in New Jersey also called us, sharing a similar experience.
Just like the Jefferson Parish single mom who we previously reported on, the college nursing student from Alabama and a New Orleans high school junior, Alexis Reynolds, a senior from St. James found Impact Modeling and Talent Agency, based in New Orleans, online and filled out a talent application.
“My mom got a call from Carol (Sterling), and she said she hand selects certain people, and she helps them get through the modeling industry,” Reynolds said.
Like the other consumers, Reynolds attended a couple of workshops that consultant Carol Sterling hosted at a New Orleans hotel. She also attended a photo shoot months ago but says she’s never received the actual pictures.
Reynolds’ mother, a law enforcement officer, paid Sterling for a ‘publicity package’ and trips to get her daughter exposure, but they say it never materialized.
“The first trip she talked about was New York, which was Fashion Week, and we all paid money for the plane ticket, for the ticket to get in the venue for Fashion Week, and we were supposed to participate in Fashion Week. We were supposed to walk and do all of these things, and leading up to it, it got canceled because of the hurricane, but the hurricane didn’t affect New York,” Reynolds explained.
Reynolds said other trips to Los Angeles and then Las Vegas also got canceled, and repeated attempts asking for a refund went unanswered.
When we asked Sterling what happened, she told us she took on more than she could handle. We asked if trips had to be canceled, where did that money go and why hasn’t it been refunded? “I am working to give them their money back. It still went into pursuing the event itself. It went into working with them. This wasn’t just you pay this and you’re going. I was coming out of pocket as well,” Sterling said in a phone interview.
“Basically these kind of cases boil down to, did she intentionally tell them something that she knew was not true that enticed them to give her money, and if that can be proven, then I think you have a criminal case,” Raspanti said.
Because this involves much more than just one isolated case, Raspanti explained law enforcement may be paying attention.
“This woman had an M.O. She did the same things again and again to the same types of vulnerable people, and I think it’s gonna be easier to show a pattern of behavior, which would eliminate more and more of her defense of it just didn’t work out,” Raspanti told us.
He says with people spread across different states, it’s also possible the Feds could get involved.
“It’s up to the Feds to decide, but they could have what they call interstate commerce as their reason to get involved in this case so I can envision this possibly being a federal prosecution,” Raspanti said.
It’s been an awful experience that’s overshadowed what’s supposed to be one of the most exciting times of this high school student’s senior year, leading up to graduation.
“A lot of people have worse situations than I do and are in a lot bigger bind with a lot of money that Carol (Sterling) has, and it’s really it’s really sad,” Reynolds said.
While her family estimates they’ve spent more than $2,600, the college nursing student in Alabama is out $3,400, the high school junior paid more than $2,000 and the single mother spent more than $14,000, and that’s just a handful of a much larger group who says this has shattered their dreams and impacted them financially.
Sterling’s daughter, Randi McClendon runs Impact Modeling and Talent Agency. In an email, she said Sterling was an independent consultant and never was an Impact employee. However, she didn’t explain how Sterling got access to model applicants or why Impact received some payments.
If you’ve got a consumer issue, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women or, fill out our online complaint form.
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