For many aspiring models, the dream is to be on America's Next Top Model.
So when organizers of a spin-off called Atlanta's Next Top Model said that they worked for CBS Atlanta, contestants were excited.
"I've been telling people CBS is going to be there recording it and it's going to be a red carpet event and there's going to be cameras. This is going to be televised, this is going to be something big," aspiring model Claudia Sims said.
"We would have two modeling contracts, we would get money for winning and we'd also go on to have our own TV show," aspiring model Brittany Dawson said.
But models became suspicious when they were asked to sell tickets to family and friends and they said they were told only top sellers would have a CBS camera crew follow them around.
"I was hired by CBS Atlanta," organizer Cayce Guest told an aspiring model during our undercover investigation. Guest's February Facebook page also said he was a casting director/producer for CBS in Atlanta.
This was not true.
"Why would you put on your Facebook page, Cayce, that you work for CBS?" CBS46's Adam Murphy asked.
"That's what my contract said," Guest replied. "That's what our contracts said with Rod, Rod Bowling with Mastermind."
Guest said he and his colleague, who goes by Cupid, were hired by Mastermind Media to organize the fashion show and sell $200 to $400 ticket packages sponsored by Brio, Crowne Plaza and CBS Atlanta. We checked: Mastermind scheduled time with the companies but never paid for anything. The companies also told CBS46 they had not given Mastermind Media permission to use their name or logo as sponsors for the event.
"This is a total shock to me," said Guest. I'm sitting here in total shock because everything we were given was given by Rod, our boss," Guest continued.
So who is Rod Bowling? Guest and Cupid took us to his office and opened the door. He wasn't there and his office was empty except for a table, chair and phone.
They did reach Bowling on Cupid's phone. Bowling claimed he hired Guest and Cupid as independent contractors and therefore he's not responsible for their actions.
"I'm not trying to throw my staff under the bus or anything, but I told them not to use your logos," Bowling said to us via speakerphone.
"You never said that," Cupid replied to Bowling.
CBS46's investigation into Bowling found that he was operating in Dunwoody without a business license. He also has had a number of run-ins with the law, including several arrests in Ohio and at least one in Georgia for hit-and-run.
From a computer supplied by Bowling to Guest and Cupid, Guest showed us a website. "This is our Eventbrite page that he set up for us to sell tickets and he was always on top of us saying I need you to sell this many tickets or you don't get paid," Guest said.
More than $3,000 was collected in credit card sales and who knows how much cash.
"We were never allowed to touch any of the cash. When we were always brought in, he [Bowling] was there and he would always take the sack of money," Guest said.
While on the speakerphone, Cupid told Bowling that she was upset. "Everything has been sketchy since day one, Rod," Cupid told Bowling. "Where is all the cash money from all of the models, all of that? You are a horrible, horrible person."
A few hours after our visit to Bowling's office, an email was sent to the models canceling the event and telling them to get a refund from Eventbrite. We checked, and Eventbrite did refund the money. As for the cash, Bowling said he would refund it.
CBS46 discovered that Bowling began texting and calling many of the models asking them to email him proof that he had never told them he was with CBS.
Model Brittany Dawson shared a text on her phone with us that she said was from Bowling. "It says, 'Just tell the truth, my understanding is that Rod, Cayce and Cupid worked for Mastermind Media and not CBS Atlanta,'" Dawson said.
Dawson's mother, Kammie Dawson, said Bowling told her on the phone, "If you write this email here saying that I was not a part of CBS, I was just Mastermind Media, then you can get a refund."
While Bowling claims otherwise, most models CBS46 spoke with said they didn't send that email to Bowling.
Sims says she is thankful she didn't hand over hundreds in cash.
"Now I'm back to square one. I'm starting all over again," said Sims. "I'm having to research and do things and it sucks but I'm hoping this time it will go around a lot better," Sims said.
CBS46 News asked Bowling multiple times for an interview to tell his side of the story in detail, but he never agreed to meet with us. The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection and Dunwoody police told CBS46 they are investigating Bowling.
Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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