Sciacca remembers the suit as a victory. "The Beach Boys was probably the worst lawsuit ever," he says. "It took me three years and a million and a half dollars, but they fell."

Hurting for money, Sciacca took his first stab at reality programming. Batalla de las Americas was supposed to search across two continents to find the fifth member of MDO, the relaunch of Menudo, the Puerto Rican boy band that gave Ricky Martin his first break. Sciacca and two other cocreators enlisted the help of a woman named Patricia Valiente to conduct auditions in Honduras in 2008. Valiente said she was never paid, however. She sued Sciacca but lost when she grew tired of fighting him in court.

But there was more evidence that Batalla de las Americas was poorly planned. Sciacca booked several weeks at the James L. Knight Center in Miami to film the contest, but his $31,000 check bounced — twice.

Just as Sciacca's show was falling apart, so was his home life. Michele was busy touring comic-book conventions as a model and waiting on a class-action settlement from Dow Chemical for a boob job gone wrong, according to court records. In 2009, she filed a restraining order saying Sciacca pushed her down stairs and threatened to kidnap her kids — charges Sciacca strenuously denies. They separated shortly thereafter.

Divorce records show Sciacca's money problems also extended to his personal life. He contends he was making only $1,000 per week but was renting a $600,000 home and driving a Jaguar. Sciacca told the court that his company Creative Licensing International was "in severe debt."

Recreating a Legend was meant to change all that. The show was imagined as a global competition to find a new singer for Gloria Estefan's band, the Sound Machine. Sciacca teamed up with a production company called Forti Layne to bring in Wright, a Miami R&B singer from the 1970s. Sciacca also hired Frank Licari, a South Florida actor, to host — his contract was for $55,000. The actor happened to be friends with South Florida resident and Australian-born singer Newton-John, who agreed to be a judge.

Sciacca flew in women from eight countries, then put them up two to a room. Rounding out the cast was Sobti.

Sobti grew up in Goa, India's smallest and richest state. At 17, she dropped out of high school and began acting. Eventually she was picked up for a reality singing show in Hong Kong. Although she didn't win, Sobti and three other contestants were contacted by Sciacca in 2011.

From their first lunch with Sciacca, the girls were skeptical. "We thought maybe there might be cameras set up in the apartments, that it might not even be a TV show," Sobti says.

By the time filming finally began, the women's three-month visas were expiring. Only Sobti and Jenavee Valenzuela, from the Philippines, had clearance to stay for six months. They were told that the other contestants would be flown home to get paperwork sorted out and that shooting would resume shortly. So Sobti and Valenzuela stayed at their apartment in Players Club on Coral Ridge Drive, living off their $250-a-week stipends and hitting up LA Fitness.

Soon, the stipends began to taper off too. Before long, the two singers were living off of Cup Noodles and donations from the sympathetic production crew. The electricity was shut off because no one paid the bill.

One day, Sobti begged Sciacca for help.

"You guys should be thankful that I brought you here," she recalls Sciacca responding in a text.

Eventually, Sobti's manager wired her money to return home. Although there were supposed to be 12 episodes filmed, only six were produced.

Roseanna Bragg, one of RAL's producers, says Sciacca owes her almost $30,000.

Bragg was willing to forgive Sciacca until she and other crew members discovered allegations that Sciacca had also ripped off blind Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano. According to two lawsuits filed in Broward County last year, Sciacca enticed the musician to leave his old manager by promising induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a performance at the Billboard Awards, and inclusion on a Rolling Stone list of great guitarists. True to form, none of these was delivered, a pending lawsuit alleges. One suit was filed by Feliciano and another by his manager. (Sciacca says he was completely aboveboard in the deal and calls the "Feliz Navidad" singer a "jerkoff.")

Sciacca blames the show's problems on its employees. He says producers hired their friends and paid them four times the industry standard. And he challenges anyone to come up with paperwork connecting him to a scam.

As for Sobti's claims that she was left stranded? "They were never stuck," Sciacca says. "That's weird. Those girls are in love with me."

His denial doesn't end there. Not even two dozen lawsuits and a cataclysmic fire can kill Sciacca's childhood dreams of superstardom. He claims that several "monster" channels are interested in RAL, although he can't say which ones. And he promises it will air — he just can't say when. "I wake up in the morning, I do what I do, and I'm pretty successful," he says. "Recreating a Legend will go down in history as one of the great television shows."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
 
Loading...