KAPAHULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu talent agencies are joining law enforcement authorities in warning modeling hopefuls about potential dangers on the Internet. This comes after a disturbing case involving two women from the Big Island.
The women, each with dreams of a modeling career, responded to an online classified ad. But instead of putting them on a magazine cover, investigators believe the so-called scouts wanted to get them into the sex trade.
Reputable agencies say this type of incident makes their whole industry look bad.
The staff at the Kathy Muller Talent and Modeling Agency was busy with bookings and answering questions from potential models. The company has been in business since 1979 and, like many other talent agencies, is increasingly concerned about online modeling recruiters.
"I think all the agents are a little bit nervous about what's going on," Kathy Muller, agency founder, said. "There are sites that anybody can contact and anybody can say they're a photographer."
Big Island police on Tuesday issued a warning after two Puna women -- ages 26 and 19 -- were lured to Oahu with the promise of a lucrative modeling contract. After spending a few days taking pictures of the hopefuls, investigators believe the photographer and the so-called modeling agent intended to take the women out of state, possibly out of the country, and force them into prostitution.
"When you hear stories like this, it makes the whole industry a little shaky and makes people worry about what's going on," Muller said. "Of course, that's a big concern of ours."
The 19-year-old potential victim managed to get to the airport and fly back to the Big Island.
Honolulu police were notified, and were able to locate the second woman and the two suspects as they were checking out of their hotel. HPD says it is investigating the case.
"Gosh, for I'd say 10 years we've been having problems with Internet issues and kids that are being contacted or contacting photographers or, quote, scouts," Muller said.
Muller says her agency does all the background work before shoots, contacting the photographers and checking their references to make sure they're reputable people.
"If a mother calls and says my child, my 12-, 13-year-old just got a card from somebody on the beach, we'll follow up on that even if they're not one of our models," she said.
A Honolulu police spokesperson could not immediately provide an update on the investigation.