A Washington bank, the Small
Business Administration and
about a dozen local models
would like to know the whereabouts of Joseph E. Keating and his wife, proprietors of Adair, a hot Washington-based modeling agency that suddenly went cold. The Keatings apparently disappeared earlier this year, allegedly leaving in their wake debts of more than $80,000.
"No one can find them," says a source familiar with efforts to recover most of a $75,000 loan the Small Business Administration made through D.C. National Bank to the Keatings two years ago. Only $3,200 in principal was repaid before the bank declared the loan in default, according to Bob Pincus, a D.C. National Bank officer. Bank efforts to find Keating and his wife, known simply as Adair, failed, and the SBA reimbursed the bank (with taxpayers' dollars) for 90 percent of the amount of the loan in default.
Meanwhile, a grand jury has heard testimony from at least two models who worked for Adair and who testified they never received payment for some of their services. And postal investigators are investigating whether the Keatings' conduct was proper under mail fraud laws.
Jan Stephens, a former Adair model in Washington who now runs her own agency, testified before the grand jury that she received about $7,000 in checks from Adair that bounced. And a local attorney for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Tom Powers, says "about a dozen models" that AFTRA represents claim the Keatings owe them a total of about $10,000 in commissions.
"I hate to be this bitter," says Stephens, "but I feel the entire modeling profession has been taken advantage of."
In 1980, the Adair adventure seemed poised to soar. Fueled with the SBA-backed loan, the Keatings opened a second office in Philadelphia and, according to friends at the time, began living the high life. Then, in 1981, according to Stephens, the Keatings were taking longer and longer to pay money due.
In the fall of that year, the Keatings moved their modeling agency to Manhattan, annoucing their arrival with a soiree at Studio 54 disco. But by last February, according to a lawyer who tried to track them down then, they dropped from sight. The agency's New York office closed and the phone was disconnected, says a D.C. National Bank officer who spent days trying to find the Keatings.
Footnote: For Joseph Keating, the Adair Agency wasn't his first business flop. In 1976, nearly 100 people, mostly Washington professionals, invested several thousand dollars each in a Keating company called Railvest. The pitch: buy a railway boxcar, accrue spectacular tax benefits and eventually earn a profit. Two years later, amid charges of mismanagement by angry investors and burdened by debt, Railvest collapsed.