Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - WHAS11 News has been investigating a local male modeling agency for 6 months.
Some of the models say the agency isn't delivering on its promise to try to find the models work and they say the work that is being offered isn't to model.
It's an investigation 6 months in the making with a criminal file that dates back to 1992 when Russell Claxon spent time in jail for promoting male prostitution.
Now a model in his agency claims he's at it again.
Michael Casolari is model number 88 at Models Today L.L.C.
He’s 5'11, 173 pounds and trying to get out of modeling.
According to Casolari, he hasn’t made a dollar modeling for Russell Claxon.
Tim Amyx is model number 59 on the site. He is 6'1, 173 pounds and looking for a break.
"Brand new to the area, just moved here, didn't have a job, didn't even have a place to live yet and the money he promised was sounded pretty good," says Amyx.
Also there's Kyle Dever, model number 148. He has taken Russell Claxon to court.
Claxon was in small claims court to defend himself after Dever sued him for the money paid to join the agency.
"I paid $225, which is half of one of my unemployment checks. Then two weeks later, when I got my next check, I gave him the rest of it. Its $450 total," says Dever.
Claxon testified in court that he currently represents 349 models.
WHAS11 News doesn’t know how much money he makes but if all those models paid the $450 to sign up, that would add up to over $157,000.
Claxon has offered no evidence that he's placed any of those models in a modeling job.
Judge Jacquelyn Eckert ordered Claxon to give Dever his money back.
"You've shown me nothing to indicate that you're running a legitimate business. I think you're running a scam," said Judge Eckert.
The court awarded Kyle Dever his $450 minus court costs. Russell Claxon appealed the decision and lost.
Some of Claxon’s models say he's running more than a scam.
WHAS11 News made several attempts to talk to Claxon about the 15 young men who've filed complaints against him through the Better Business Bureau.
WHAS11 News also wanted to ask him about his criminal past.
Claxon was most recently convicted of theft by deception. In 1992 he spent time in jail after a promoting prostitution conviction. He was indicted, but not convicted of promoting a sexual performance by a minor.
Tim Amyx says Claxon targets young men who are in a financial jam.
He also says there is trouble when models try to get out of the contract.
"He's threatened to sue me over the phone and he actually even brought my family into it telling me I'm going to sue you so bad you won't be able to afford diapers for your son and stuff like that," said Amyx.
Eventually Claxon did answer one of WHAS11’s Andy Treinen’s phone calls and they talked for nearly a half hour.
"Show me evidence that you've gotten a single model a job this year," said Andy.
Claxon pointed out that his contracts with models don't guarantee modeling jobs. They bind him only to post pictures on his web site, and that's true.
He has turned down repeated requests for an on-camera interview, but maintains the models are lying.
"Why are all of these people who don't even know each other lying to me?" asked Andy.
That same day, Claxon told Andy Treinen he was out of town for the rest of the month. Yet hours later, WHAS11 photographer Pete
Longton happened upon him taking pictures of a young shirtless man near Cherokee Park. Claxon then took pictures of Pete.
The Better Business Bureau started getting complaints about Claxon in 2007.
Vice President Bruce Gadansky says they've forwarded some of those complaints to LMPD.
"There's been allegations in there that he's offered them to get into some kind of escort service if you would to work off their debt," says Gadansky.
There are accusations in complaints from seven models claiming Claxon's modeling agency is just a cover for what he was convicted of in the 90's. One model Andy talked to says he knows first-hand how models become male prostitutes.
Coming up in part two of this story, WHAS11’s Andy Treinen talks with one young man who claims he’s not a prostitute, but just a guy with financial problems who made a very bad decision.
When WHAS11 News asked Louisville Metro Police about Russell Claxon's business they say they are investigating and at this point they'll only say it's an open case.