Want to model for Adore Me? An actor named Daniel Giovanni Watson has been touting his affiliation with well-known talent scout Lindsey Hayes Kroeger and using Adore Me’s name to entice wannabe models to turn over dozens of nude and other “intimate photographs” and videos in exchange for the chance to appear in Instagram campaigns for the lingerie startup. The big problem with that? Adore Me never requests nudes and Watson – who recently appeared in Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. – is running a “sophisticated scam” aimed at “preying on unsuspecting women.”
According to its complaint, which was filed in a California federal court on Tuesday, Adore Me says that not only has it never worked with Watson, Kroeger – a famed talent scout tied to The CW’s hit show Gossip Girl – has not either, making Watson’s use of Kroeger’s name and his pattern of “falsely holding himself out as affiliated with Adore Me, a brand women trust” part of a “fraudulent scheme.”
According to its complaint, which was filed in a California federal court on Tuesday, Adore Me claims that not only has it never worked with Watson, Kroeger – a famed talent scout tied to The CW’s hit show Gossip Girl – has not either. They also have “never sought nude photographs of women,” making Watson’s use of Kroeger’s name and his pattern of “falsely holding himself out as affiliated with Adore Me, a brand women trust” part of a “fraudulent scheme.”
Establishing email and social media accounts, as well as profiles on Google, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitter using Ms. Kroeger’s name, and using “Adore Me’s name, trademark, and reputation,” Watson allegedly “approaches his potential victims [on] social media and in person, poses as a talent scout, and says things such as ‘My close friend is looking for Busty women to try out a new [Adore Me] bra and give THEIR opinion on it. [It’s] high paying / [she] asked me if I knew any women.”
Watson then “pressures his targets to send an email to, or respond to an email from, his fake ‘close friend’ [Kroeger] at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com, telling them to ‘include name age bra size any and all photos that show face, breast[s], etc.’” New York-based Adore Me alleges that Watson “further lures women into a false sense of security” by assuring the women that Kroeger will be the only one viewing the photos, and so, they “can send any with no discretion.’” However, in reality, Watson exclusively controls the accounts for those email addresses.
Still yet, the scheme goes further in that Watson “shows his target victims a fake email and/or direct message … purportedly from his ‘close friend’ [Kroeger] to him, which asks him to help her find candidates for an advertising campaign for Adore Me, paying $3,000 – $8,300.”image via complaint
Adore Me goes on to describe Watson’s alleged pattern of following up with his victims, requesting additional photos, including nudes, and videos, and making “veiled threats” in order to cause the victims to “feel trapped into sending additional photos and videos.”
The 7-year old lingerie company asserts that when it was “informed of this scam,” it “immediately engaged a private investigator to determine the identity” of the individual posing as affiliate of Kroeger’s and an extension of the Adore Me brand. Setting forth claims of trademark infringement in connection with Watson’s use of its trademark-protected brand name, false advertising, and unfair business practices, Adore Me has asked the court to permanently enjoin Watson from engaging in further fake scouting actions both for “the protection of consumers and of Adore Me’s reputation.”
In addition to injunctive relief, Adore Me is seeking damages sustained in excess of $75,000, and an award of enhanced, punitive, and special damages and fees, costs and disbursements, and interest in connection with such investigation, all of which it will donate to the BadassArmy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support to victims of revenge porn/image abuse, and eradicating the practice through education, advocacy, and legislation.
Adore Me’s suit comes after the brand was sued, itself, by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) for allegedly employing a business model used to deceive consumers. Following the receipt of a formal complaint from Truth in Advertising Inc., a nonprofit organization “dedicated to empowering consumers to protect themselves against false and deceptive marketing,” the FTC initiated a formal investigation and then filed suit against Adore Me in federal court in New York, seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages.
Adore Me and the FTC settled their legal fight in late 2017, in furtherance of which Adore Me paid up $1.3 million and ensured that it would refrain from making misrepresentations in the sale of any good or service with a negative-option feature, and failing to provide a simple way for consumers to avoid being charged and to immediately stop any recurring charges.
*The case is AdoreMe, Inc. v. Watson, 2:19-cv-08830 (C.D. Cal.).