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Modeling agency owner charged

A state agency will prosecute four cases involving tales of expensive photographs and false hope.

By TIM GRANT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 13, 2002

TAMPA -- Would-be models and actors have won a victory in their crusade against a Tampa modeling agency.

While they may never realize dreams of fame and fortune, they get the satisfaction of seeing the owner of Model 2000 face charges that include fraud and misrepresentation.

The state agency that regulates talent and modeling agencies has filed the charges against Nancy Sniffen, owner of Model 2000 Inc. Investigators determined that four complaints against Sniffen were strong enough to prosecute.

"We consider violating the law in regulated professions to be very serious," said Lonnie Parizek, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in Tallahassee.

Tampa police are continuing an investigation of Sniffen's business practices, said Katie Hughes, spokeswoman for the Tampa Police Department. Dozens of people say they filed formal complaints with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Parizek said the four cases the state will prosecute were filed May 30. No date has been set for a hearing.

If she is found guilty in the administrative hearing, Sniffen could face a maximum penalty of revocation of her talent and modeling agent's license and a fine of up to $5,000 for each case. She also could be forced to pay restitution.

Sniffen has been charged with violating several state laws. She is accused of misrepresenting her ability to obtain modeling work for her clients, as well as the amount of work available, in order to persuade them to buy expensive photographs she said they would need.

Before Sniffen ended an interview with a Times reporter Wednesday, she responded only to one of the technical allegations against her.

"I didn't put my address on an ad I ran in the paper. I didn't know I was supposed to do that," she said. "I don't think any (agencies) did that."

Many clients told of a similar scenario. People answered an ad Sniffen ran in the employment section of a newspaper, thinking they were going on a job interview. When they arrived, Sniffen told them they were beautiful, she could find them lots of modeling work, and they would need photographs for her to represent them, they said.

After they paid Sniffen up to $1,000 for what many of them said were poor quality photos, Sniffen did not fulfill her promise to make them stars, they said.

Pasco County resident Eric West filed a lawsuit against Sniffen on behalf of his daughter Christy, who bought photos from her. His civil case, which began in May, will resume July 22. He was encouraged by the state charges.

"It adds credibility to our position that the law has been violated," West said.

Gina Hughes, who paid Sniffen $1,040 for photographs of her 3-year-old daughter, Gabriella, said at this point, the money doesn't matter.

"It would be nice to get it back, but getting her (Sniffen) closed down is well worth it all," Hughes said.

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