From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Ayman Ahmed El-Difrawi (also known as Michael El-Difrawi, Alec Difrawi, Alec Defrawy, Alec Defrawi, Alex Defrawy, Michael Defrawy, David Mellon, Michael Jenson, Michael Chandler and allegedly Alex Simon) is a controversial Orlando area businessperson and possible candidate for United States Congress with associations with various modeling companies (some of which themselves have been controversial[1][2]) .He is a founder of Industry Magazine, a franchised consumer fashion magazine, as well as a consulting firm. He currently operates under a wide variety of business names, many of which have been compared to phishing operations. His criminal conviction for fraud is often noted, although the ongoing relevance of this conviction is disputed by El-Difrawi himself, and he denies any wrongdoing in his current business operations.


[edit] Background

El Difrawi was born in Egypt on February 22, 1964 to Ahmed El-Difrawi and Rafiah Kashmiri, two Egyptian immigrants who now live in Groveland, Florida.[3]

Ayman El-Difrawi was convicted of fraud in conjuntion with his activities with Shearson, and partner Ralph Edward Bell received a permanent injunction from the FTC from his activities with the Erickson Agency, which partner El Difrawi helped run prior to his incarceration, then via phone throughout his imprisonment, and again once parolled. It was at The Erickson Agency, later Creative Talent Management and later Model 1 in McLean, Virginia, that Ralph Edward Bell, Jr. and Ayman "Alec" El Difrawi began a criminal partnership that has lasted nearly twenty years, through numerous iterations and frequently re-named scam companies focused on the modeling and/or job recruitment industries. Their most recent is USA Voice/World Voice and Chesapeake/BSA Careers, a business the duo formed in 2006 to collect personal information via various Internet "content sites" of their creation. The business employs ever-changing corporate names and newly formed corporate entities, internally created websites and thousands of "job postings," along with satellite "offices" throughout the country via rented executive suite answering services, to elude legal scrutiny and censorship by Google, Monster, and other large Internet companies the business uses for its posts, but which police such activities. The business is based in Orlando, Florida, and "hires" home-based "reporters" and bloggers to post unedited content to various proprietary websites designed to capture or "phish" the personal information from viewers and job applicants, whose information is then sold to online universities and other spam marketers. [4][5][6][7]

[edit] Criminal History

In 1990, El-Difrawi (under the name Michael Defrawy) was arrested with associates Patrick Read, Thomas Bradshaw, and David Elliot for a felony - unlawful interception of an oral communication. The charges arose from illegally taped phone calls.[8]

In 1991 El-Difrawi was arrested on charges of felony child abuse and aggravated child abuse. In 1993, he pled Nolo contendere to a lesser charge of first degree misdemeanor child abuse. He was placed on 365 days probation, ordered to pay cost of supervision, and placed under other unnamed court restrictions.[9][10]

In 1995, El-Difrawi pled guilty to a criminal charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud arising from an offence committed in 1991.[11] In 1996, El-Difrawi was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $2.3 million in restitution to the victims of a scam he created through companies known as the Small Business Loan Association and Shearson Management Group.[12] El-Difrawi was released from prison on August 27, 1999.[13]

In 2006, El-Difrawi was arrested for misdemeanor assault in relation to a domestic violence incident, ordered out of his residence, and to have no contact with the victim.[14]

Also in 2006, while testifying under oath for a lawsuit that Wilhelmina brought against Lou Pearlman, El-Difrawi stated that he was barred from doing business in the state of Illinois.[15]

[edit] Modeling Business

El-Difrawi states that he started his modeling business as Studio 58 Models in 1999 with his mother and Dr. Saddek. The company went through various name changes, mergers, buyouts and acquisitions including eModel, Options Talent, Trans Continental Talent (TCT), Wilhelmina Scouting Network and Fashion Rock. He reports that, at one time, the modeling business had over 150,000 clients.[16] According to the Orlando Better Business Bureau, eModel also traded as ModelsOnly, ModelsOnlyCosmetics, Options of Orlando,, WHY Models, Why Scouts, and [17]

As Early as 2001, media outlets began to call eModel and its other incarnations a scam.[18][19][20][21][22] Well-known modeling agencies such as Ford Models and Elite Models denied ever working with El-Difrawi's modeling companies, and asked to have their names removed from the company web-site.[23] A representative of Ford said that the modeling business was not reputable and lied about having a relationship with Ford.[24]

El-Difrawi became associated with Lou Pearlman through the latter's purchase of Option's Talent Group.[25][26] Some details of El-Difrawi's criminal record together with details of a business relationship between El-Difrawi, his mother and her husband were disclosed in an SEC filing relating to Trans Continental Entertainment Group Inc.[11]

In 2003, the New York State Consumer Protection Board released a statement saying that the Wilhelmina Scouting Network was the largest example they had ever found of a "photo mill" scam. Speaking about Wilhelmina and other modeling scams, New York State Senator Charles, Fuschillo Jr. said, "By targeting the young, hopeful and innocent of our state, these 'agencies' try to make a quick, dishonest dollar and that is unacceptable."[27] El-Difrawi claims, via his web site, that "In fact at the time Dr. Defrawi left the company (and until now) the company had never been accused of any wrong doing whatsoever by any government agency anywhere."[3]

International news outlets Newsweek and Dateline NBC both ran stories claiming that WSN (as the modeling business was then known) was using deceptive sales practices. Newsweek also noted that job board Monster pulled all of WSNs 1200 ads for scouts until the company, "changes its business practices." Newsweek also mention the criminal records of Dave Elliott, Alec DeFrawy (El-Difrawi) and Cortes Randall.[28]

The Executive Director of the New York State Consumer Protection Board called the business a "modeling hoax." Despite receiving approximately 2,000 consumer complaints, a 2-year investigation by the Florida Attorney General's Economic Crimes Unit into Wilhelmina Scouting Network, Options Talent Inc., eModels Inc. and Trans Continental Talent was discontinued in 2004 because the probe was unable to find "any substantial violations" and because the company had been bankrupted leaving no deep pockets to pursue.[29] Before its bankruptcy, the company was under investigation in Florida, New York, and Massachusetts.[28]

Some time in 2003, El-Difrawi and Ralph Edward Bell led a walk-out of the talent business with several other key players. El-Difrawi and Bell went on to found EYEMODEL. Soon after, several of the Wilhelmina's customers noticed unauthorized charges on their credit cards which went to EYEMODEL. A consumer alert was issued that stated that someone at EYEMODEL who had walked out of Wilhelmina had stolen customer's credit card information.[30]

In 2004, Wilhelmina, who had licensed their name to Trans Continental Talent, sued Pearlman and the company for $24 million alleging nonpayment of fees and questionable business practices. Wilhelmina claimed, as part of the suit, that Trans Continental recruiters used high-pressure tactics to get clients to pay huge sums of money to have their photos placed on the company's web site.[31] A Denver CBS affiliate conducted an investigation and found the agency scouts were trained to say anything to get average looking people to pay nearly $1000 to sign on. Despite comments to the contrary from the Orlando office, the Denver office promised would-be models they would get jobs. The investigation uncovered several talent scouts who had quit reportedly because they didn't want to scam people.[32]

While Pearlman and El-Difrawi originally downplayed El-Difrawi's role in the company, Pearlman eventually characterized El-Difrawi as a principal saying, "He was the one that really developed the business. He's the one that put it together." [33] both critics and employees said that El-Difrawi was at the heart of the modeling agency from the very beginning. The former director of the company's Atlanta office said, "It's Alec, He runs the whole thing." [2] Alec's own web site states (without naming the company directly) that he, "founded the largest modeling company in the world," and "partnered with Wilhelmina to Launch the Wilhelmina Scouting Network." [34]

El-Difrawi, under the name Defrawey, is currently being sued in Massachusetts by former Options Talent / TCT / Wilhelmina franchisee Edriss Farazi. The suit which also names Terri Bears-Nix, and franchise attorney Andrew Caffey is for inter alia fraud and is current ongoing.[35]

[edit] Industry magazine

Franchised publication "Industry Magazine" was originally founded as Karma Magazine by El-Difrawy, Armand Kulpa (Trans Continental Talent's VP of Sales and Marketing), and Ralph Edward Bell. In September of 2002, Lou Pearlman purchased a major share of the magazine (then Karma) which he then renamed 'Industry Magazine' and turned into a franchised celebrity magazine while using it as an in-house promotional piece for Transcontinental Talent.[36][37][38][39]

[edit] Current Activities

El-Difrawi currently (2007) is a principal and 100% owner of Internet Solutions Corp.[40][41] Internet Solutions Corp was registered as a company in Florida on 11 January 2007, by its CPVS Alex Finch, an Orlando lawyer who has represented El-Difrawi at least twice, and who has several businesses listed at the same addresses of Internet Solutions Corp.[42][14]Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag[43][44][45][46][47]

The BBB lists the following businesses at the Exact Orlando Address and Suite number as Internet Solutions Corporation: International E Beauty Inc, Power Applications Inc., Career Specialists Inc., Rhino Exteriors LLC, Timeshare Brokerage of Florida Inc, McKinley Financial Services Inc, American Employment Network Inc., Key Mortgage Lending Services Corporation, Hirebug Inc, DBL Financial Service Corp, Desks and More LLC.[48][49]

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times a spokesman of World Voice News stated that his company is part of the same company as Instant Human Resources.[50][51][52] One of Instant Human Resources' satelite websites, "Facts About Instant Human Resources" was registered by Alex Simon on the address of Mrs Rafiah Kashmiri, the mother of El-Difrawi.[53][54] Some other sites, [55] and .[56] were registered using the same address, by respectively A. Defrawy and Alex Simon. Defrawy Consulting Group with a contact listed as Alex Defrawy is listed at the same address [57]

The following similar promotional sites state that they are owned by Internet Solutions Corp.

Other sites, "facts about" registered but currently not active:

The BBB of Central Florida lists Alec Difrawi and Alex Finch as the contacts for Internet Solutions Corporation, also operating under the names Consumer Business Bureau, Instant Human Resources, Internet Solutions Corporation, Titan Website,, USA Voice, and VeriResume.[58] Also according to the BBB, El-Difrawi's offices suite at Kirkman Road in Orlando host the following businesses: Career Specialists, Inc. American Employment Network, Inc. aka American Employment Network Inc. Arizona Placements, Atlanta Work Force, Carolina Job Specialists, Denver Employment Solutions, Employment Specialists, Massachussetts Job Source, Richmond Temps, San Diego HR Solutions, Seattle's Best Placement, Windy City Careers.[59][60] The BBB lists the name Alex Siman as contact for, World Voice, and World Voice report which all have the same PO Box as Internet Solutions Corp and have an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau.[61]

[edit] Reported Phishing Activity

After a 6 month investigation, WFTV (Florida) reporter Todd Ulrich reported that El-Difrawi and Ralph Edward Bell were running fake job sites (Instant Human Resources, and Internet Solutions Corp being two) allegedly misleading people to apply for jobs that didn't exist. Three Workers told WFTV that they solicited very private information in fake interviews which was then sold to companies for spamming purposes. El-Difrawi, though attorneys, claimed that these were merely disgruntled ex-employees out to hurt the company. A spokesperson from the BBB said that people across the country had been scammed.[62] Intenet Solutions Corp has been tagged by McAfee Site Advisor reviewer as a site that engages in phishing.[63]

BBB DC notes about Instant Human Resources: This Business Operates under the Names, Instant Human Resources Internet Solutions Corp. National Human Resources World Careers (Worldcareersite).[64] In a different report about USAVoice it also notes:[65]

Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to unanswered complaint(s). The Bureau has received multiple inquiries from the public and is contacting the firm about complaint correspondence as well. Consumers report being asked for personal information, including Social Security numbers, in order to set up an employment link with the firm. Further contact was not provided, however, and consumers report concerns that their information may be sold and mis-used.

According to the Washington Post, privacy experts have said that USAVoice (Instant Human Resources) is an extremely successful phishing scam. The Washington Metro BBB has logged over 8000 inquiries into the company and the chief executive of the BBB said that the company appeared to be, "a scheme to amass and sell personal contact information." Monster, and Careerbuilder reported removing all ads from USAVoice and Internet Solutions by February of 2007.[66]Reportedly in 2006 Yahoo Hotjobs removed all job ads for USAVoice after an investigation.[67] Privacy expert Pam Dixon looked into USAVoice and said that she was surprised the site appeared to be up for over a year, when most phishing sites only lasted a week. The site uses a unique two-pronged approach by actually contacting people who give up their personal info (and are then flooded by spam).[68][69]

In 2007, El-Difrawi started a business and website using his real name. The name Crimes-on-Persuasion appears to be a takeoff of the Crimes of Persuasion site and book which are critical of El-Difrawi.[70] The site implements an employment scheme and copy to other El-Difrawi sites noted for phishing activity.[71][72]

[edit] Run For Congress

Several web sites have been developed ostensibly to gather support for a run by El-DIfrawi for either Senate or the US House of Representatives. El-Difrawi is apparently running on a platform of Internet Reform[73]

[edit] Lawsuits

In 2007 El-Difrawi and his company Internet Solutions Corp filed multiple lawsuits against various bloggers, owners of web sites, and John Does for, and amongst other things, defamation. The lawsuits are each in various states, but claims against most defendants have been dismissed. The attorneys of record for El-Difrawi are Alex Finch and Keith Kress.[74][75][76]

El-Difrawi's Internet Solutions Corp, d/b/a TooSpoiled is currently being sued by Breakdown Services Ltd. for copyright infringement. Breakdown Services Ltd. creates script breakdowns of motion pictures and accuses El-Difrawi's company of illegally copying and distributing breakdowns for the films "Space Buddies," "White Jazz," "Beethoven: The Reel Story," "The Greatest American Hero" and "Soul Men." [77] The now defunct Toospoiled web site is accused of posting copyrighted script breakdowns on its site in order to lure in unware actors. Several studios complained to Breakdown Services when they started getting unsolicited applications from actors (which they do not accept) using proprietary script breakdowns originating from ISC's web site.[78]

In a suit similar to Breakdown Services', Dominion Enterprises, which operates several employment websites accuses El-Difrawi (named as Alec Defrawy in the suit), as well as his companies and several John Does of trademark infringement. [79]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Orange County Clerk of Courts Case Number 04-CA-003146-O
  3. ^ a b Difrawi Consulting - Fact Vs. Fiction
  5. ^ FTC v. Model 1, Inc. et al. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  6. ^ Model 1, Inc. - Final Consent Order United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  7. ^ Florida department of State Small Business Loan Association
  8. ^ "4 Business Officers Taped Calls Illegally, Police Say", November 22, 1990, Orlando Sentinel
  9. ^ Clerk of the Circuit Court, Hillsborough County, Florida Docket for case nr 91-CF-014205
  10. ^ Clerk of the Circuit Court, Hillsborough County, Florida Sentencing Information for case UCN:291991CF014205D001TA
  11. ^ a b SEC Info - Trans Continental Entertainment Group Inc
  12. ^ Washington Post March 12, 1996 Man Gets Four Years in Fraud Case
  13. ^ Federal Bureau of Prisons
  14. ^ a b Orange County Clerk of Courts El-Difrawi misdemeanor assault case, September 2006
  15. ^ Leusner, J (July 26, 2006). "Contract-breach claim against Pearlman tossed; Today, the jury is expected to get the case that still involves fraud and trademark infringement". Orlando Sentinel
  16. ^ Modeling Story - Defrawi Consulting Group
  17. ^ Orlando BBB Report on Inc.
  18. ^ Click on Detroit Hidden Cameras Expose Talent Agency Scam
  19. ^ I Am Not A Model, Jane Magazine, March 2003
  20. ^ Fox 61 NEWS Hartford, CT The Model Scam
  21. ^ Komo 4 News Seattle buyer Beware: Ever Thought About Being A Model?
  22. ^ KSAT, San Antonio Is eModel Golden Opportunity Or Big Business?
  24. ^ New Times Broward-Palm Beach September 6, 2001 - Hustling for Models
  25. ^ Options Talent Group: An I-Team Investigation at the Internet Archive
  26. ^ Trans Continental Talent at the Internet Archive
  27. ^ Office of Consumer Affairs - Nassau County, New York - Wilhelmina Scouting Network, Modeling Agency
  28. ^ a b Brian Braiker (June 18, 2003). Model Misbehavior A Nationwide Talent-Scouting Agency Is Under Fire For Its Dealings With Would-Be Models--And Its Own Employees . Newsweek
  29. ^ State Ends Probe Into Pearlman's Former Model-Scouting Company
  31. ^ Model contract turns ugly, boy band king sued - Orlando Business Journal
  32. ^ - Talent Scouting Agency Investigation
  34. ^ - About
  35. ^ Commonwwealth of Massachusetts, Worcester Superior Court, Department of the Trial Court, Case #03-843C
  36. ^ Orland Weekly Lou's Next Move
  37. ^ BBB report on Industry Magazine
  38. ^ Orlando Weekly More Bad Karma
  39. ^ National Arbitration Forum Decision - Industry Publications LLC v. Industry magazine
  40. ^ Better Business Bureau of Central Florida Reliability Report of Internet Solutions Corp
  41. ^ ISC v. Marshall - Marshall's appeal
  42. ^
  43. ^ Florida Department of State Internet Solutions Corporation
  44. ^ Florida Department of State American Employmenty Network, Inc.
  45. ^ Florida Department of State American Management Solutions, Inc.
  46. ^ florida Department of State Power Applications, Inc.
  47. ^ Florida Department of State Franchise Monster Corp.
  48. ^ BBB: Search Results 5401 S. Kirkman Rd., Suite 310, Orlando, FL 32819
  49. ^ BBB: Search Result 5401 South Kirkman Rd
  50. ^ LA Times "Sleeping on the job? Security at work-applicant sites faulted" by Joseph Menn, September 11 2007
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^ Whois Alex Simon, 16650 Royal Palm Drive, Groveland, Florida 34736, (321) 293-0698, Data original registration in Whois History, membership required
  54. ^ SEC Info - Paramount Trust, et al
  55. ^ Whois Registrant Name:A Defrawy, Registrant Street1:16650 Royal Palm Drive Data original registration in Whois History, membership required
  56. ^ Whois Simon, Alex Coastal Management, Inc. 16650 Royal Palm Dr. Groveland, Florida 34736 United States (321) 689-7654 Data original registration in Whois History, membership required
  57. ^ Better Business Bureau of Central Florida listing for Defrawy Consulting Group
  58. ^ Business Information from the BBB Serving Central Florida
  59. ^ Orlando BBB info on Career Specialists, Inc.
  60. ^ Orlando BBB info on American Employment Network, Inc.
  61. ^ BBB of Metro Washington DC & Eastern Pennsylvania reliability report for
  62. ^ WFTV Florida Movie File - Online Job Sites Raise Questions
  63. ^ [1]
  64. ^ Washington DC BBB report on Instant Human resources
  65. ^ Washington DC BBB report on USA Voice
  66. ^ Taking the Bait on a Phish Scam
  67. ^ Helen Huntley - St. Petersburg Times
  68. ^ Looking for a Job? Phishers Are Looking for You
  69. ^ Employment Websites Play Fraud With Job Hunters
  70. ^ Money Talk Tampa Bay Helen Huntly's coverage of one Defrawy web site
  71. ^ Crimes on Persuasion Employment Page
  72. ^ World Voice Report Careers
  73. ^ Difrawi for Senate
  74. ^ Internet Solutions v. Marshall
  75. ^ Difrawi v Garga-Richardson
  76. ^ Difrawi v. Henderson
  77. ^ Entertainment law Digest
  78. ^ A Casting Breakdown
  79. ^ Dominion Enterprises v. Network Solutions, Inc. et al

[edit] See also

Category:Criminals Category:American businesspeople Category:1964 births Category:Living people Category:People from Florida Category:Confidence tricksters Category:American fraudsters Category:American criminals