TEN models from All Talent agency were ready to jet out to Dubai for a glamorous assignment when boss Sonia Scott McKay discovered she was being conned for thousands.
A FAKE Arab tycoon tried to scam a model agency out of £30,000, the Record can reveal today.
Ten Scots models were ready to jet out for a glamorous assignment in Dubai when agency boss Sonia Scott Mackay tumbled that she was being conned for a fortune.
She called in bank fraud specialists, who confirmed the whole thing was a scam and there was no such event in Dubai.
Sonia had thought her luck was in when she accepted a big-money deal to provide 10 models for an event allegedly being put on by a Dubai businessman calling himself Demi Cole.
The deal was signed and sealed and a cheque was sent in advance for the job.
But when the cheque arrived, it was for £30,000 more than the agreed figure.
Sonia said: “I thought, this is a really good contract for us to get. I thought, wow, let’s go shopping.”
The bubble burst when the “tycoon” got in touch to ask Sonia to immediately return the extra £30,000 as, he said, it had been paid in error.
The agency boss became suspicious and called in fraud investigators.
A probe was launched and the trip to Dubai was cancelled.
Sonia said the models were disappointed that the assignment came to nothing.
But she added: “Not being conned out of £30,000 outweighs missing out on a trip to Dubai.”
The con bid began when the fake tycoon, who claimed to be from Ashraf General Trading LLC in the Al Quoz Industrial Area in Dubai, sent Sonia’s All Talent agency a report about his event at the emirate’s Crowne Plaza.
The plan included a full itinerary of the glitzy assignment which, he said, would run from February 3 to 12.
In an email, the fraudster wrote: “The number is 10 models (five female and five male). Age and ethnicity do not matter. The age limit can be between 18-35 and height can be any.”
He added: “They will be required to catwalk and display our products on the model runway – natural skin products, natural beauty, body care products and wrist watches. They will be displaying our fashion accessories.”
Sonia was assured the models’ travelling expenses would be paid, that they would be put up in their own single rooms and that their meal requests would be met.
The email added: “Clothes for working will be provided as no nudity is required.”
Sonia, whose agency is based in Glasgow, contacted Cole and they agreed on a fee of tens of thousands of pounds for providing the models.
She said: “We thought it was unusual they weren’t using an agency in Dubai. But we carried through the procedures and sent them photographs.
“We often get bizarre offers to take models abroad and get asked for models aged 14-21 for other agencies in Milan, Paris and New York.
“We always check they are genuine. When we got this email, I wondered if it was for human trafficking. But because the age range was 18-35, I dismissed it.
“They selected the 10 models they liked and we went into negotiations about money. I went in on the top line and they didn’t seem to argue. They just needed the numbers for the bank account for international transfers.
“I thought, I’ll see if the money comes – no money, no models.”
On Friday at 5.30pm, the cheque was deposited in Sonia’s agency account, with the overpayment of £30,000.
She said: “I checked my account and saw the transaction had gone through with some extra money.
“Demi Cole then asked me to return the extra money which was sent in error. He sent me his bank details which were different from the name of the Dubai company we were supposedly working with.
“Because it was later on a Friday, I thought I’d wait till Monday before doing anything. But this man Demi phoned me on Saturday to remind me the banks were open to transfer the extra money back to his account.
“I had to check with my bank because it was so much money. It was then I found out my available balance and my actual balance were very different. His cheque had been deposited in Kent.
“I smelled a rat and, after contacting the venue in Dubai who knew nothing about the event, spoke to the bank’s fraud squad.
“They said the cheque was written by a guy called Anthony Jones. The bank believed the cheque book was probably stolen. Anyone can write a cheque for any amount of money to anyone – but until the money is cleared, it’s worthless.
“The bank advised that the cheque would probably bounce, which it did three days later. Luckily, no money came out of our account.”
Police were called in but said they would not investigate further as the crime had been avoided.
The scam is being investigated by Sonia’s bank Santander.
She has since found out that Cole had contacted other UK model agencies.
Yesterday, All Talent model Monika Wiktorowicz said she was crushed when the assignment fell through.
She added: “I was hoping to go to Dubai and am really disappointed. But I’m so happy for Sonia that she sorted it out.”
Fellow model Annie Voigt, from Dundee, added: “I’m disappointed but happy Sonia figured it out and wasn’t conned.”