LOS ANGELES (July 19, 2004) - City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Screen Actors Guild President Melissa Gilbert issued a warning to actors to be on guard against individuals who provide forged vouchers used to verify employment necessary for SAG membership.
Background actors may earn SAG vouchers as proof of employment for working SAG signatory productions. An individual who obtains three SAG vouchers, and presents this as proof of employment with corresponding pays stubs, may join the union entitling them to higher pay and better benefits under union contracts.
“In an effort to protect actors and the integrity of SAG’s membership process, my office is committed to prosecuting fraud in the entertainment industry,” Delgadillo said. “Non-union actors should be aware of SAG membership voucher scams and research the company to make sure it’s legitimate before accepting the work.”
“I want to thank City Attorney Delgadillo for taking a strong stand for the right of aspiring actors not to be preyed upon by individuals intent on exploiting their hopes and dreams to make a quick buck,” said SAG President Melissa Gilbert. “These scams have long plagued our industry. I am grateful for the hard work of SAG’s staff in conducting this investigation and helping build a successful case for prosecution. This is yet another effort the Guild is making to protect members of our union as well as those who aspire to membership. SAG membership requires hard work and legitimate acting accomplishments. It cannot be bought, sold or bartered.”
Delgadillo’s Consumer Protection Unit and the Screen Actors Guild have coordinated efforts to raise awareness of potential scams and aggressive prosecution of perpetrators.
At a press conference held today at SAG’s national headquarters in Los Angeles, Delgadillo, joined by Gilbert, announced the filing of charges against Thyvronn Verlin Hill, 40, of Los Angeles, including 10 counts of false advertising, two counts of petty theft, one count of unauthorized use of a trademark or label, and one count of operating a business in the City of Los Angeles without a proper Business Tax Registration Certificate.
Since the beginning part of this year, Hill’s fictitious company RJ Productions advertised on craigslist.org seeking non-union actors for work with the production company. In exchange for 10 days of work as an audience member on the company’s productions, actors were “guaranteed” a SAG voucher, three of which are required to join Screen Actors Guild. However, Hill was not authorized to advertise or distribute vouchers and the vouchers given to actors were forged.
After collecting significant evidence, SAG lawyers informed the City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit of the suspected scam. The City Attorney’s Office conducted its own investigation and Deputy City Attorney Mark Lambert filed the case on July 14. An arrest warrant was issued for Hill’s arrest.
If convicted on all counts, Hill would face up to six years, nine months in jail and $28,250 in fines. Each count of false advertising carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Each count of petty theft and failing to have proper Business Tax Registration Certificates carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and $1,000 fine, and each count of misuse of trademark or label carries a maximum penalty of three months in jail and $200 fine.
“I am happy to cooperate with SAG in pursuing criminal charges in cases of fraud against actors,” Delgadillo said. “SAG protects actors on and off the set, while my office protects actors when they are victims of crimes on and off the set.”
Additional resources and tips for both union and non-union actors regarding avoiding scams can be found on the SAG website at www.sag.org.