• Report: #67321
Complaint Review:

WFTV (ABC) & Bill Hoffman

  • Submitted: Mon, September 22, 2003
  • Updated: Wed, July 07, 2004

  • Reported By:Toronto Ontario
WFTV (ABC) & Bill Hoffman
490 E. South Street Orlando, Florida U.S.A.
  • Phone: 407-841-9000
  • Web:
  • Category: Media

WFTV (ABC) & Bill Hoffman, Rip-off Report Investigation, Corruption of the Orlando Media by one of Trans Continental Talent AKA Wilhelmina Scouting Network, Lou Pearlman's Head Henchman, Alec Defrawy. WFTV community charity underwriting relationship of 9 Family Connection, TV viewers ripped off Orlando Florida

*Author of original report: Rip-off Report's Confidential Source provides bribery proof

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In January 2003, Ripoffreport.com discovered that WFTV (ABC) had removed several of Todd Ulrich's investigative reports from their website. This reporter called Todd, who assured me that their database had migrated to another server and the information had been temporarily lost. However, he assured me that it would be re-posted soon.

After a significant amount of time passed, the stories still had not been posted, so Ripoffreport.com conducted an aggressive investigation including a telephone interview with WFTV's General Manager, Bill Hoffman. During my interview with Bill Hoffman on March 31, 2003, he admitted that Todd Ulrich was also pursuing 3 or 4 additional stories, which they decided was "overzealous"in light of Trans Continental Talent's underwriting relationship of 9 Family Connection, WFTV community charity, and assurances from TCT representatives that Florida's investigation was gearing down. Hoffman also admitted he made no effort to confirm information received from TCT or even to contact the Attorney General's office, despite their admitted knowledge of an ongoing investigation by that agency. The following links are recordings made by Rip-off Report while interviewing Bill Hoffman, General Manager of WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, on March 31, 2003. The goal of the interview was to determine why investigative reports about Trans Continental Talent were removed from their website and why Todd Ulrich's investigation was "killed." Mr. Hoffman was surprisingly candid and admitted that it had everything to do with TCT underwriting WFTV's 9 Family Connection.
CLICK HERE: Bill Hoffman Interview Part 1 - WFTV community charity support by businesses impacts their decisions to pursue negative reports.
CLICK HERE: Bill Hoffman Interview Part 2 - TCT stories removed from WFTV website because TCT underwrote 9 Family Connection Community Charity and because he bought the bogus explanation by TCT representatives.
CLICK HERE: Bill Hoffman Interview Part 3 - WFTV "kills" 3 or 4 stories that Todd Ulrich was working on. WFTV knew about the criminal element at TCT and accepted explanations only from TCT without checking further with the Florida Attorney General.

To date, none of Todd Ulrich's stories have been re-posted to the WFTV website.

BELOW: View Todd Ulrich's original stories, which have been "lost" from WFTV'swebsite.


Glamour & Gimmicks
Action 9
A local modeling company uses glamour and gimmicks to cheat consumers out of a small fortune, by offering the chance to become successful models. Many local consumers and thousands across the country found the deal too tempting to pass up, paid hundreds of dollars and lived to regret their decision. It starts with open call night. A time where teenagers and even some adults audition at a company called E-Model. Brian Golat had been approached by an E-Model talent scout, who wanted to put his face on their web site. He was told E-Model was a national site where "elite" modeling agencies would spot his good looks and offer him an attractive modeling contract. "I had the look. I had the physical features that fit their criteria," he told Action 9. Like thousands of others, Golat wanted to try. He went to an E-Model open call night and was told he met their strict standards. And for $400, plus $20 a month, he could place his pictures on the web site. Golat wanted to think it over, but was told waiting was not an option. "I've got 10 or more people behind you that this is their dream to become a model, and it's one of those things that you have to sign it now or forget about it," Golat recalled being told by the E-Model representative. So, Golat signed and paid that night. And according to an ex-employee, that happened a lot. "We'd throw crap at them until they get really excited and say 'Yeah, that is something I want to do,'" she told Action 9. This former E-Model talent executive is now embarrassed to show her face. She says there were no real auditions or standards. But she does confirm that anybody with $400 was put on the site. She said, "It makes me want to cry, to think of all those innocent people that were sucked in because they trusted me." She says E-Model's sales team is managed by Ralph Bell. Our Action 9 investigation revealed he's a man with a past that includes a modeling rip-off in another state. When Consumer Investigative Reporter Todd Ulrich approached Bell to ask questions about E-Model, Bell responded that he knew nothing about E-Model. Our Action 9 investigation uncovered a charge against Bell by the Federal Trade Commission three years ago. The commission charged that Bell used deceptive tactics to sign up models in Virginia and he was banned from using casting calls to sell products. Our investigation uncovered Bell wasn't the only one with a past. A number of E-Models managers came from Studio 58, an Orlando company we first exposed two years ago. Studio 58 also used slick casting calls. Though candidates thought they were being selected as promising model candidates, each one was being pressured to sign and pay $400. We approached the manager for Studio 58, Mr. Tom Weiner. He didn't answer our questions then and two years later we found him managing an E-Model open call night. Again, candidates are made to believe they had to pass a very selective screening process, when the reality is that no one is turned down, as long as they have the posting fee to be on the web site. Which is now in excess of $400. E-Models provided two models for us to speak with for our story, Vivian Ngyen and Katie Enlow. Both say they are pleased to have joined E-Model. However, it was clear during our interview, that even these two models sent to us by E-Model thought they had "won" the right to be on the web site. "He says you're very photogenic, so you pretty much made the cut, on the first try which most people don't," Vivian explained. But Brian Golat never got a single call. He, like dozes of others that complained to the Better Business Bureau, feels they're the victims of a modeling hustle. "They're just taking people's money, putting them on this site, and leaving them there," Golat concluded. Forty-eight hours after our investigation first aired, E-Model shut down. Options Talent Group, another national company that places would-be models pictures on a web site for a fee, had purchased the company. Now, Options Talent is holding open call nights to sign up models at sites across the country. As of right now, the Better Business Bureau reports the company is too new to develop a consumer history. We'll keep track. Just remember, you don't have to pay anyone to get an agent, or a modeling job. 2002 WFTV-TV
--------------------------------------------------------- Action 9: Modeling Aspirations Could Cost You

(05/09/02) -- There's a new modeling company in Central Florida that could be approaching you about making you or your child a very rich model. But, first they want you to spend hundreds of dollars. Our Action 9 investigation uncovers, this modeling company is related to one we've warned you about before. "I never thought it would happen to me," Maria Lavin-Sandhudl told Action 9. But it did. Maria remembers when a talent scout from Options Talent, an Orlando based company, approached her with her daughter at a local fair. That's when she heard her 4 year-old daughter Morgan, would be a perfect model. "She just kept saying oh my gosh, she's so beautiful, she's so beautiful," Maria recalled. That same week Maria took her daughter to an Options Talent open call, for what seemed to be an audition. Later the company called her at home for the final screening interview. Would they "pick" her daughter? She soon found out, the answer was yes. Her daughter made the cut, so she paid $795. For that price, Options Talent would post her daughters picture on their website so she could be discovered by a major modeling agency. But just 48 hours later, a new revelation. "Oh my god, we've been scammed," Maria told Action 9. Maria found out Options Talent is a new company with a very controversial past. Just a few months ago, Options Talent, bought E-Model. E-Model was a local company we found tricking consumers by telling them they met strict modeling standards, then hitting everybody up for the $400 web posting fee. "These are people's dreams," Erica Shores told Action 9. Shores worked for E-model, then Options Talent, before she lost her job. She says would be models are still hustled into thinking they passed a rigorous screening. "Then you tell them, my director makes the final decision. He knows what looks are marketable right now," she explained to Action 9. Options Talent executives say some consumers may have been misled during the transition from E-Model, but insist that has changed. "If one of our talent scouts or talent executives distinctly says they're being selected. I'll make sure they're fined and terminated," according to Ryan Saniuk, an Options Talent executive. But that's not what we heard when we checked with the Better Business Bureau. The Bureau is convinced the company changed names and owners - not tactics. "We're seeing the same types of complaints from Options as we did from E-model, and consumers face the same kind of risks as they did before," according to Judy Pepper, Central Florida BBB President. We found another warning sign from Options Talent. During the callback from Options Talent, you're told unless you agree to join and pay right now, you won't get a second chance for a year. That's a classic pressure tactic you need to avoid. It is true, however, that some candidates who appear on the Options Talent website do sign with an agency. Some get work. Recently, several candidates got jobs with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. But industry experts caution, you don't have to pay anyone to sign with a modeling agency. 2002 WFTV-TV
---------------------------------------------------------- Modeling Co. Uses Glamour To Cheat Consumers
(02/14/02) -- A local modeling company offering big bucks modeling careers could be taking local consumers for the ride of their lives. Action 9's Consumer Investigative Reporter, Todd Ulrich found this company using glamour and gimmicks to cheat consumers out of hundreds of dollars. Watch Channel 9 Eyewitness News at 6 for the full report. It starts with "open call night." Here, teenagers and even some adults audition at a company called e-Model. Though based in Orlando, the company boasts of branches throughout the country and an internet site accessed by modeling agencies around the world. And lots of exposure means lots of jobs. That's, at least, what Brian Golat believed. "I had the look, I had the physical features that fit their criteria," Golat told Action 9. Golat had been approached by an e-Model talent scout who wanted to put his face on their website, a national site where "elite" modeling agencies would spot his good looks and offer him a very attractive modeling contract. When Golat came to an open call night, like the one Action 9 attended with our hidden cameras, he heard about the $400 fee plus 20 bucks a month. Brian wanted to take time to think it over, but he was told: "I've got 10 or more people behind you that this is their dream to become a model , and it's one of those things that you have to sign it now or forget about it," Brian recalls. So he signed and paid that night. A desperate act that an e-Model ex-employee told Action 9 happens a lot. "We'd throw crap at them until they get really excited and say, yeah that is something I want to do," the former employee told Action 9. Now embarrased to show her face, she says there were no real standards or auditions. Anybody with $400 was put on the website. "It makes me want to cry, to think of all those innocent people that were sucked in because they trusted me," she confessed to Action 9. She says e-Model's sales team is managed by Ralph Bell. And Action 9 found he's a man with a past, a modeling ripoff in another state. Action 9's Todd Ulrich, caught up with Bell to ask a few questions about e-Model. "I don't know anything about it," Bell responded. In our investigation, we discovered the Federal Trade Commission says Bell used deceptive tactics to sign up models in Virginia, and he was banned from using casting calls to sell products. Our investigation found e-Model "open call nights" were used to trick candidates into thinking they had passed a selective screening process, then pressured to sign and pay 400 bucks. Even the two models sent to us by e-Model thought they had "won" the right to be on the website. "He says you're very photogenic, so you pretty much made the cut, on the first try which most people don't," Vivian Ngyen told Action 9. She and Katie Enlow are pleased they joined e-Model. Katie has since signed with a Miami modeling agency. When Action 9 Reporter Todd Ulrich asked if she thought there was paid work down the road for her, Katie replied, "Oh definitely. I think my career is just now coming together." But that's not the case for Brian Golat. He never got one single call. And he, like dozens of others who complained to the Better Business Bureau feel they're the victims of a modeling hustle. "They're just taking people's money, putting them on this site, and leaving them there," he told us. E-Model responded to Action 9 in writing. In one letter, Ralph Bell is called a consultant, yet in another the company say's he just shooting a documentary at their office. E-Model states it does have modeling standards that recruits must pass to get on the website. But in that same letter, there' s this quote, E-Model simply acts as a posting board, which allows anyone to pay for posting" and end up on the website. And that's why many victims who went to "open call night" felt hustled after paying big bucks and not getting jobs. For any consumer, remember, you don't have to pay anyone to get an agent, or a modeling job. 2002 WFTV-TV ---------------------------------------------------------- Action 9: Warning About Local Modeling Agency (07/25/02) -- Ever thought about a career in modeling for you or your child? For a price, a model scouting company based in Orlando offers to expose you to some of the biggest modeling agencies in the business. But many times, that never happens. Action 9 reporter Todd Ulrich has uncovered new information about a company he's warned you about before. The Options Talent Group offers to show off your talent on their website and on special cruises so big name agencies can discover you. Well, check out what happens after you spend close to a thousand dollars. "It was a waste of my time. My money," says Cherly Major. It was not what she expected when Options Talent "chose" her for a Bahamas cruise model competition. "She started naming people that would be on the cruise: Vogue, MTV, WB, FOX," explains Major. Cheryl thought it meant exposure to big name companies that would "discover" her, a deal Cheryl could not pass up, even though the Option's 4-day cruise cost nearly a thousand dollars. "I was expecting to get a photo shoot, didn't happen. And I was expecting to talk to some agents. It didn't happen either," says Major. And she wasn't the only one on board who couldn't find any top modeling agencies. Ford was supposed to be there. Elite was supposed to be there. They never showed up. Many consumers complain about Options Talent, which has its national headquarters inside a Metrowest office in Orlando. They felt selected for dream access to the modeling industry, that turned out to be a fantasy. It starts with open call night, when you're invited to see if you measure up as a model. If you're "selected", Options Talent will put your picture on their website, where a major modeling agency could discover you. The cost: $600 down and $20 dollars a month. Our volunteer, Heather Wingfield, got a phone call from Options two days after going through open call. Heather was told she made the cut, but had to sign up and pay $600 right now, so she'd gain exposure to the biggest names in modeling, agencies like Ford and Elite. They are top agencies, but we checked. Ford Models in New York told us there's no affiliation with Options Talent. A lesser-known Ford, the Candy Ford Group, does view Options' web site for model prospects. And the Elite agency is not the one in New York. It's actually Elite in Singapore that has used Options. What about those heavy hitters you're told belong to the Options' advisory board. "He even said Don Johnson and Angie Everhart had worked with them," comments Heather. We contacted Don Johnson's publicist who says Johnson, of TV's Miami Vice and Nash Bridges fame, severed all ties with Options Talent months ago. And Angie Everhardt's publicist says the supermodel simply lent her name as a favor to a friend, but she too is now getting out because of the controversy. Many consumers paid for big name connections and exposure, they didn't get. An Options Talent spokesman did tell me, many legitimate modeling agents go on their cruises, hunting for talent. And a couple hundred agencies check out their website looking for models they can represent. The company doesn't keep track of how many people actually sign an agent's contract, and get work 2002 WFTV-TV

Although noone has confirmed how much Lou Pearlman had to pay WFTV to turn the other way in the face of overwhelming evidence of fraud, sources in a position to know place the figure at around $140,000. In an interesting twist, it has also not been confirmed that Richard Jans may have posed as an attorney to deceive WFTV, however, we do have confirmation that he has recently represented himself as an attorney with TCT. Perfect candidate for employment with Mark Tolner, Lou Pearlman, Trans Continental Talent and Fashion Rock Richard Jans is NOT an attorney, but has agreed to resign from the bar in lieu of disciplinary proceedings. Jans allegedly misappropriated approximately $239,000 in client trust funds. (Florida Supreme Court Case no. SC02-2072) This qualification for employment at TCT was no doubt a major plus, joining those of his same ilk.
CLICK HERE: To view the documents concerning Richard Jans, who has apparently posed a WSN attorney at least in one case when he contacted WPEC in West Palm Beach, Florida. Jans resignation from the bar is tantamount to disbarment. Mr. Hoffman further explained that representatives assured them that the Attorney General's office was backing off their investigation. I stressed that I was sure that was not the case andreported to Hoffman that I was reporting my finding to the Florida Assistant Attorney General, Jackie Dowd. BELOW: View the e-mail correspondence which proves that Hoffman stubbornly maintained WFTV's affiliation with Lou Pearlman and his apparatchiki - Alec Defrawy, et al, despite official warnings.
----- Original Message ----- From: frank_torelli@hotmail.com To: jacqueline_dowd@oag.state.fl.us Cc: bill.hoffman@wftv.com Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 4:04 PM Subject: Conversation with Bill Hoffman, General Manager, WFTV

Hi Jackie,

I just got off the phone with Bill Hoffman, General Manager, WFTV. I agreed to include him on this e-mail so that he could rebut anything I might have to say. I would hope that he would do the same in his rebuttal, if any.

I need to communicate twothings resultant from that conversation:

  1. Bill told me that the decision to remove Todd Ulrich's stories from their website was connected to TCT's contributions to 9 Family Connection.
  2. Bill also told me that the recent meeting between TCT and WFTV also played a part in their decision not to pursue a story on TCT personalities because, in part, it had been communicated that you would be "relaxing your investigation" based on your recent exchanges with TCT.

Mypurpose in writing to you is that you may want to pursue the content of that communication and its possible impact on attempts to manipulate the media. Based on my conversation with Bill, I believe that he is an honest individual and from what I have developed on "9 Family Connection," I believe it is a worthy effort. I would just hate to see them sullied by any degree of inpropriety.

Very Sincerely, Frank Torelli Rip-off Report badbusinessbureau.com Fax: 413-431-6441 Msgs: 305-832-2949

----- Original Message ----- From: Bill.Hoffman@wftv.com To: frank_torelli@hotmail.com ; jacqueline_dowd@oag.state.fl.us Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 7:50 AM Subject: RE: Conversation with Bill Hoffman, General Manager, WFTV I appreciate being included on the email. I would like to react to the two comments that Frank made below. I really have strong exception to the implication that because that TCT is a 9 Family Connectionpartner they can buy (by way of their"contributions") their way off of our web site or out of news coverage.I tried to explain to Frankthe process wewent through here. We met with representatives from TCT and had a rigorous conversation about things we were concerned about from a news perspective. That conversation made us feel more comfortable with where the company is headed and our relationship with themas a 9 Family Connection partner.

----Original Message Follows---- From: "Jacqueline Dowd" To: Bill.Hoffman@wftv.com CC: frank_torelli@hotmail.com Subject: RE: Conversation with Bill Hoffman, General Manager, WFTV Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 10:02:39 -0500 If anyone from TCT told you that the Attorney General's Office is "relaxing" its investigation, that is not true. If anything, our concerns are growing.

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank Torelli [mailto:frank_torelli@hotmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 11:03 AM
To: Hoffman, Bill (CBI-Orlando TV)
Subject: RE: Conversation with Bill Hoffman, General Manager, WFTV


There is a tremendous temptation to say, "I told you so," and it gives me no great pleasure to do so. I truly feel you have been duped by this unscrupulous business.

A very quick search will reveal a whole host of consumer problems; check fraud, credit card fraud, misrepresentation (you are a victim of this one), three names for the same business in the space of about a year (this alone should raise eyebrows), and the list grows daily. As I mentioned, I am a consumer advocate and I am going to give you a bit of advice for free (I am also a paid consultant).

The only choice you have to save the reputation of your charity is to divest it from this company in a very public way. You need to be like Caesar's wife, at this point. Please do not misunderstand my position. I am a friend and the victim's advocate, always. You are clearly a victim in this case. I do not want to be in the position of defending victims against you in the future. Consider this choice a bit of prevention Very Sincerely, Frank Torelli Rip-off Report badbusinessbureau.com Fax:413-431-6441 Msgs:305-832-2949


And that is not all. We knew we needed to look into corruption of other media by this company, which has been reputed to be highly corrupt, and uses influence to corrupt others. Additionally, Alec Defrawy declared, on more than one occasion, that "the media was in their [Trans Continental Talent's] back pocket." As this story has progressed, it is embarrassingly apparent how some of the media has ignored this HUGE story, which is virtually right under their noses, despite the immensity of the improprieties for which Pearlman and his people have found themselves under investigation. COMMENTARY: The media has an obligation to uphold the public trust, just as do public officials. Any time that is corrupted, be it by advertising or bribery, disguised as charity, they dishonor that trust and must account for their irresponsibility toward their stewardship. We have learned significant lessons from the recent frauds perpetrated on the public by Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg, bothof the New York Times. Plagiarism, including failure to credit work appropriately, especially by the media,has becomesuch a common practice that it appears to have become acceptable. The repugnance of the term has been lost. Plagiarism comes from the Latin, "PLAGIUM," which is associated with the act of kidnapping. It is time that we demand more from thosewhoreceive money to provide us with information. They MUST be accountable to us, not their underwriters. Frank Torelli, Rip-off Report Investigative Reporter Toronto, Ontario
Canada Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Wilhelmina Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Options Talent Emodel.com Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Trans Continental Talent AKA Options Talent Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on TcTalent

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 09/22/2003 02:50 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/wftv-abc-bill-hoffman/orlando-florida-32801/wftv-abc-bill-hoffman-rip-off-report-investigation-corruption-of-the-orlando-media-b-67321. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 Author of original report

Rip-off Report's Confidential Source provides bribery proof

AUTHOR: Frank - (Canada)

A very timely report from one of our moles produced significant evidence, not only of the monthly payoffs to WFTV, but also of other payoffs, discussed below. This document appears to be more of a budget rather than a ledger of dispersement, but provides more evidence of that which we already knew, or in some cases, expected was true.

Evidence of Bribery, Payoffs, and Payments to others allegedly involved in the scam.

In addition to the monthly payments of $11,667.00 to WFTV, Pearlman's TCT also paid off the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders over $30k yearly. Dan Devin was closely affiliated with Ayman El-Difrawi and David B. Elliott and arranged the involvement of TCT in the DCC competition each year.

Another significant issue, which I would like to address in another report, is the Robert Fizia case. The point which needs to be addressed at this time is that the US Attorney aggressively pursued prosecution of this guy who did nothing more than what he had seen other executives of TCT do. They "negotiated" severance packages in exchange for their silence.

Documented in this log are the payments to Neil Mauskapf, a former Chief Technical Officer, and Anthony Ruben, a former Chief Financial Officer. COMMENTARY: For the time being, let us just say that it stinks that the Department of Justice has chosen to come down so hard on this individual without fully investigating the case. The Federal Public Defender's office surprised the US Attorney with Ayman's criminal past. It was well documented that Ayman had reported the incident to the FBI and bragged how they were having people arrested for trying to blackmail them. Having the FBI do Lou Pearlman's dirty work like this is like Elliot Ness investigating a report from Al Capone that one of his employees was ripping him off. It just doesn't make sense.

The payments are also documented for the advertising scam to E! Networks, for the lease of Dave Elliott's Jaguar, reimbursement for the use of Ayman El-Difrawi's American Express card for the $177,010.88 charge at the Rosen Centre (hotel developed by Dave Siegel, Pearlman's Church Street confederate) for Fashion Rock. (Paranthetically, it is ironic that American Express has now cancelled the TCT account. TCT can no longer charge their prospective clients using their AmX card.)

Finally, the payments to Monster.com are documented. Information just posted as a rebuttal to this report, reveals that there is more to be learned about the TCT - Monster.com relationship. Check this report for a link to a more comprehensive report at a later date.
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