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Dear Jack:

I'm embarrassed about this happening to me because I've been in L.A. for more than five years and have seen quite a few scams go down. I should have seen this one coming. The company in question is MBS Enterprises, run by Reycie Santayana.

Basically my situation is simple. I was at a low point in my career, feeling like I was not getting a lick of work, and I had no one but myself submitting me. I met with Reycie at her home--which should have tipped me off that something was wrong. She offered me an open arrangement: She would act as my manager and submit me until I got a part. Well, I got a dayplayer role on "The Bold & the Beautiful," at which point she said we should sign a contract making her officially my manager. Foolishly, I also agreed to sign a form that had my pay go to her first and then to me after she subtracted the standard 15 percent. I felt at the time that this was a normal arrangement in the representation scenario, as my past agents had set up the same arrangement.

However, it has worked out terribly. I filmed the role on Nov. 7 and have received nothing in the form of payment from her. She's keeping the money I earned. I've left many messages, but she almost never returns my phone calls. The few times she has, she's said she was out of town. In the last message I left her, I told her that I had seen Internet postings from quite a few other actors who had less than good things to say about her, and that her lack of response was leaving me no other choice except to take legal action. I probably shouldn't have told her that, but I guess I was speaking out of frustration.

I have spoken to AFTRA, which has referred me to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. In filing a complaint, I will prove that she hasn't registered legitimately as a Talent Agency, and this will make my contract with her null and void. I am also planning to take her to Small Claims Court for the amount she owes me.

Please let me know of anything else I need to do to get my money and sever all ties with Reycie and MBS Enterprises. Also, how can we get the casting directors out there to be aware of her and to not contact her on behalf of the actors she's bilked? Is there a CD network that we can place her information and photograph on to make all CDs aware?

By the way, there is a website with a message board full of people talking about this same woman. Of course I would find it now.

Michael

via the Internet

Dear Michael:

Back Stage West knows all about Reycie Santayana and the various complaints against her. You may have missed Laura Weinert's articles on the topic, but if you are an online subscriber, you can access them at www.BackStage.com. The first piece, "Manager Faces Row Over Reproductions" (10/30/03), details accusations by a group of actors claiming Santayana took money from them to get them a deal on headshot reproductions, which they never received. Santayana denied any wrongdoing at the time, blaming printing delays. But in Weinert's second article, "Manager Accused of Theft" (2/12/04), the accusations get more serious. Actor Jackie Gold claims Santayana took her for $12,000 by cashing her paycheck and disappearing. Sounds like you and Gold have a lot in common.

I called Santayana hoping to track down your monies. I received one return call, on April 29, from a woman at MBS whom I assumed to be Santayana. The woman left me a voicemail stating that MBS was trying to avoid bankruptcy and that it was striving to pay its debts as soon as it could. "The agreement to pay him still stands," she said about your situation. "As soon as we have the amount designated for him, we will inform him and send it to his mailing address." Small consolation, considering you have already been waiting half a year. I returned her call, hoping to nail down a date by which you would be paid and get further comment, but no one at MBS, including Santayana, responded to my repeated calls. Not surprisingly, the last time you and I spoke, you had not heard from anyone there nor received payment of any kind.

As far as your course of action, you are already on the right track with this, contacting the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) and beginning the process of taking Santayana to court. I am so glad you are taking action and not letting this slide. If more actors fought back when they were victimized, there would be a whole lot less of this abuse out there.

Your rights here are pretty clear. Managers--who are not licensed by the state--are not authorized to procure work for talent. Of course we all know this rule is constantly broken. Managers submit their clients for jobs, use their contacts with casting people to get their actors seen for auditions, and--in the absence of an agent--deal with contracts and money. Most actors want their managers to procure work for them. However, as they are not supposed to do this, it is pretty easy for an actor in your situation to file a complaint. Those who procure work or attempt to procure work for talent are considered "agents," no matter what they call themselves or whether or not they are licensed--and as such they are regulated by the DLSE. Your first step will be to file a petition to determine controversy. To file the petition, call the DLSE at (415) 703-4810 and ask for the Licensing Unit. The DLSE will then hold a hearing and issue a ruling on the matter based on the evidence presented.

Your other recourse seems to be the court system. However, as it appears Santayana is difficult to find and has apparently ignored judgments in the past, collecting your monies through this route might prove difficult. Still, it is worth pursuing, and it may be your best chance at seeing that paycheck in this lifetime. Another avenue to explore would be to contact the L.A. City Attorney's Office and the L.A. Police Department's Financial Claims Division. What you are alleging sounds an awful lot like theft, and that might be a matter for the police to sort out.

You also questioned how one might alert casting directors about illegitimate agents or managers. Unfortunately the Casting Society of America does not have any system in place to do this sort of thing and merely referred me to SAG. This would make more sense to me if CDs only accepted submissions from SAG-franchised talent reps, but we all know that isn't the case. Sadly, there isn't a simple, direct way to get the word out, which just makes the lives of scam artists that much easier.

You can, however, contact the Talent Managers Association. This is a group of managers who have agreed to do business according to an ethical set of rules and guidelines. If an actor has a problem with a TMA member, he or she can file a complaint, and the TMA will attempt to solve the grievance. While the TMA cannot force a manager to, say, refund an actor's cash, it can bring attention and pressure to the situation and even revoke a member's status. Of course the managers who are involved in illegal schemes such as the one you describe probably aren't going to belong to the TMA to begin with. Still, Steven Nash, TMA president, says that the group attempts to be of help nonetheless, giving professional guidance and support to any actor dealing with this kind of issue. "The problems between actors and dishonest or unprofessional people who call themselves managers are a distinct concern to all of us, both on a professional level and on a human level," Nash told me. You can contact the TMA via its website at TalentManagers.org. The website also lists TMA's members, which might be something to look into before you sign with a manager in the future. While a manager doesn't have to belong to the TMA to be reputable, it sure can't hurt.

Finally, you mentioned finding other complaints about Santayana on the Web and that you didn't see them until it was too late. Let that be a warning to all readers. When you are getting ready to take a chance on someone, especially someone not recognized by SAG or licensed by the state, do your diligence! A quick Google search, while not foolproof, will sometimes yield tons of helpful information. Checking a few actor chat rooms and websites in the beginning is easier than struggling to get your money back from a scammer in the end. And there is more than one way to use the Net. You can search, but you can also post. Let others know about your experiences; get the word out. Don't be embarrassed, Michael. The only thing embarrassing about this story is the nasty way you have been treated.

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