CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says he was "troubled" by what a FOX 46 investigation uncovered about 'casting' company ATG.
"I was troubled by what I saw," said Stein. "It certainly looked and sounded deceptive."
A number of companies, like ATG, advertise "auditions" as a way to get kids into show business, but a FOX 46 investigation found they are really in the business of selling acting classes and headshots starting at $2000 and going as high as $8000.
ATG touts its "agency connections" on its website but a FOX 46 investigation found more than a dozen talent agencies are listed on its site without permission.
- ABA Talent Agency: "I never, ever authorized somebody to do something like that," said Kim Gola, who owns ABA Talent Agency. "I don't hire any of their clients."
- Abrams Artists Agency: Not in "any way affiliated" with them, an employee said.
- Anonymous Content: "Anonymous Content has no relationship or affiliation with ATG or any other fee-based acting school or workshop. The company does not hold any auditions that require any form of payments," a spokesperson said.
- April Mills Entertainment: "I know I definitely don't know who these guys are," said April Mills, who owns April Mills Entertainment, and is listed on ATG's website. "I can't even tell you what the letters stand for. I don't know the company. I think it's shady."
- Bobby Ball Talent
- Big Management & Entertainment
- BMG: "We did not give them permission to use our name to sell any services," said BMG president Gregory Brown. "I have notified ATG to remove us from their list as this was not authorized by us....I am not fine with them using our name and we will investigate this. If you go to our website, you will find disclaimers so stating that we are not fine with people using our names that are approved by the company."
- Buchwald: "Our records indicate that we have conducted no business with this company and we do not know why, without our consent, we are listed at all on their website," said Claudia Latorre."Please note that they have even misspelled our name. Additionally, with respect to Buchwald Talent Group, again we have no record of doing business with ATG and Buchwald Talent Group closed its doors in 2015."
- City Model
- Coast to Coast Talent Group
- Defining Artists
- Dino May Management: "To the best of my knowledge I don't know who these guys are," said Dino May. "And, no, I've never authorized them to put my name on their website."
- Elite Model Management: "We have never heard of and don't have any business with the company mentioned," said Susannah Hooker, the image director for Elite New York City.
- One Management: "Not in any way associated with this company," an employee said.
ATG removed ABA Talent Agency from its website after our previous story.
FOX 46 showed our investigation to Walter Bowers, a Charlotte contract attorney.
"That's something that in North Carolina would be considered fraudulent," said Bowers. "It would be fraudulent. It would be deceptive."
ATG is violating North Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, according to Bowers, by claiming to work with companies it has no relationship with.
That "certainly...is illegal," he sad.
According to Bowers, consumers could sue for three times what they paid if they can prove damages.
"Those tough questions have to be answered," said Bowers. "Why would you have on your website the name of companies that have no business dealing with you?"
FOX 46 asked Attorney General Josh Stein if he would consider opening an investigation into ATG.
"We want to make sure there's actually consumers in North Carolina that have been harmed before we use our scarce resources in pursuing a case," said Stein. "If there are viewers out there taken in by this company, and they made promises that turned out not to be accurate, please file a complaint with our office."
Anyone with a complaint against ATG is encouraged to file a complaint at 1-877-5-NOSCAM.
In its radio advertising, ATG implied kids could audition for shows like Disney Channel's "Dog With A Blog." ATG has no relationship with Disney or Nickelodeon, according to both companies.
Despite holding "auditions" in Charlotte, and in other cities around the country, ATG's "acting coach" Daniel Samonas says they aren't a casting agency.
"It is a training and marketing facility," said Samonas. "It's a company that hires people like me to come out and teach to prepare them to get agents, to get jobs."
ATG would not respond to our repeated requests for comment for this story. The company previously told us in that they "are careful not to say we are an 'agency' but in fact a training facility," according to an email that did not include a name.
"We are also careful not to guarantee that children will find agents or secure jobs," the email said.
For some, who shelled out thousands of dollars, it's a tough break.
"They got my hopes up really, really high," said Antonio, 11, who dreams of being a star.
"Just be careful," his father, Richie Colon, said. "Do your research first before you dish out any credit card."