Dateline   |  July 19, 2013

'Wild Wild Web,' Part 6

Chris Hansen investigates a 'casting agency' that isn't all that it seems to be.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are on broadway, new york city , the great white way . a company called actor's aid have responded to the company's ad on craig's list. they are looking for everyday people to appear in a sprite commercial. we're hidden cameras , we showed up with stars in our eyes looking for a part in that commercial. we wait hours, but eventually our dateline staffers get their shot at stardom one by one. this man richard gives each of our producers a script to read for the camera.

>> one, two, three, go.

>> we found other casting calls online from actor's aid. even for movies. i replied to a listing for a role in a julia robert 's film. i finally got into meet the head of the company. i read the lines she had given me, though i have no idea what the role is. would i get the part in that julia robert 's movie and would our staffers be cast in that sprite commercial? we wondering if there was even a sprite commercial to begin with. richard said he was taping our auditions to send to the casting director for sprite . only one problem. the button he's pressing isn't the record button. all he seems interested in is selling publicity shots and head shots of ourselves. that woman seemed awfully interested in selling us those head shots . are they just a bait and switch? is the real reason for getting us here to sell us head shots ? this woman wondered the same thing. she says she drove all the way from pennsylvania to audition. he says the man at actor's aid just tried to sell her photos.

>> he keeps pressuring me to buy head shots .

>> to find out more, we decided to play along and come back for the photo shoot . here's the forever now.

>> nice to meet you, man.

>> hold that pose.

>> we ask him, who says he's a casting director , about that sprite commercial.

>> what's the deal with the sprite commercial?

>> you're not really submitted yet until i submit your pictures.

>> soon he spots our hidden camera .

>> i'm going to go.

>> and that's when the drama really begins.

>> you have something in your bag. you're recording me and that's not leaving this building until i have it.

>> sir, i'm going to go. i'm going to go.

>> he refuses to let our producer exit the building.

>> you're not leaving.

>> so there's a little bit of a problem. i would like to leave the problem and you're not letting me.

>> you [ bleep ] played me, son.

>> listen, man, i'm not a private eye .

>> who sent you?

>> we have no idea who jimmy is and he definitely didn't send us. he finally lets our producer leave. that's when his imagination gets the best of him. he decided to call the cops.

>> i'm going to tell them you had a bomb in your bag.

>> that's crazy.

>> help.

>> why are you yelling for help?

>> police.

>> eventually, he stopped following our producer. a few days later, it is time for me to have a chat with him. turns out he too is an aspiring actor and is working on a low budget movie in queens new york.

>> we talked to the parent company , coca-cola. they told us that nowhere on the entire globe is there a sprite commercial being filmed.

>> i need to speak to --

>> actor's aid has not been hired to do casting for any one of the listings we saw.

>> why would you say there's a sprite commercial and cast for it when we know there is no sprite commercial.

>> he says all he does is pass on leads for acting jobs for people who come in with competitions.

>> i supply people with leads. do i have to check their lead?

>> do you have to take their money?

>> i don't take their money.

>> you're taking head shots and actor's aid is taking money from people and not placing them in any job.

>> that's true.

>> what does he say about that supposed sprite commercial?

>> i submitted about four photos. i e-mailed them to the casting.

>> turns out he sent them nowhere, just across the hall to his own half sister . the same woman i auditioned for. we wanted to talk to her so we went back to the casting office to find her. that day, actor's aid was holding auditions for a red lobster commercial. i had to tell these aspiring actors some bad news.

>> what if i were to tell you we talked to red lobster and there's no commercial being made for that company?

>> i knew it.

>> she wasn't there, but she agreed to an on camera interview the next day. when we met, she didn't recognize me from my audition.

>> i sat there.

>> yeah.

>> across from you.

>> from me?

>> from you.

>> i asked her why instead of holding real auditions, they were being sold head shots ?

>> he's no longer with the company.

>> she told us she recently fired her half brother. she insists her company provides a legitimate service. the people who wait here for hou hours don't seem to know most of her lisings can be found elsewhere for free.

>> it sounds like a scam for a commercial isn't being shot.

>> i don't think scam is a good word, chris.

>> john advance is the commissioner for new york city 's department of affairs.

>> this is deceptive advertising. you walk in and rather than them getting you a job, they're trying to get into that you are wallet. they say what actor's aid is doing is illegal.

>> we will shut their agency down.

>> you're going the pull the plug on them?

>> we're going to pull the plug, but we have to be frank on this. we pulled the plug before.

>> remember richard ? he's her partner. he didn't have much to say to us.

>> he was fined $718,000 in new york for running the same kind of bait and switch. what's the lesson?

>> trust your gut and watch your wallet. you have to say to yourself the minute this guy asks me for money, i'm out of here.