by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:ATLANTA —
An Atlanta-based talent agency that left town two weeks ago has a new message for the paying clients it left behind.
Channel 2 Action News has been investigating allegations against iTalent for weeks. Clients said they paid thousands for marketing contracts and got nothing in return, and several employees said iTalent never paid them.
For several days, iTalent’s voicemail message told clients the agency was “closed to resolve operational issues.” Now it says "...no longer accepting any new clients" so that it can focus on existing ones.
Monday, Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh found the office is still dark and empty. But a client told Kavanaugh that iTalent still wants her to show up for photo shoots.
"I guess I'm gullible. It happens," 16-year-old Emerald Hardy said.
Hardy said she was searching for a talent scout when she found iTalent's website. The southwest Atlanta agency claims to have relationships with major companies, which looked great to the aspiring singer from Roswell.
"I just filled the information out online and they called me back within a couple of hours,” Hardy said. "She made me feel like she wanted me because she cut a deal.”
According to Hardy’s contract, her family paid a $50 deposit and was to pay $450 more when they arrived for her photo shoot. But, Hardy never got her photo shoot because iTalent's southwest Atlanta office has been closed since Aug.15th.
That’s when clients and employees first contacted Channel 2.
Despite the locked and empty office, a representative emailed Hardy Sunday and said, "I apologize for any confusion, but we have not skipped town. The company can only bring on a certain amount of talent, and the quota was reached. "
The email went on, "Your new photo shoot date is set for Saturday September 6th at 9 a.m."
"That really frustrates me, because I was taken advantage of,” Hardy said.
A man emailed Kavanaugh claiming to be the former CEO of iTalent and denied signing up any new clients. In a statement he wrote:
"iTalent and affiliates have encountered operational issues that have left the companies insolvent. Though we had an investor prepared to come on board as part of a restructuring deal which would have given the company the working capital it so desperately needed, unforeseen circumstances prevented funding from coming in time to save the company, and iTalent has been forced to shut its doors. The company's proprietors have already depleted all personal liquidity to keep the company afloat during several quarters of losses, and we are heartbroken that we are unable to cover final paychecks and understand the frustration of affected employees. Management communicated the situation as it evolved, and the moment we understood that funding would not be secured in time (despite repeated assurances of commitment), employees were immediately notified."
He stated that an email address "Help@italent.com" has been created for any questions that clients may have.
The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection is now asking questions as well. It launched an investigation after we began looking into iTalent.
If you have encountered any problems with this talent agency, you can call the Office of Consumer Protection at 404-651-8600.