A Tsim Sha Tsui modelling agency conned 21 catwalk hopefuls out of more than $730,000, the District Court heard yesterday. Eight owners and staff from Star Art (Design) Holdings Company have been accused of debiting $736,600 from bank and credit card accounts without the victims' permission between November 1996 and June 1997. Judge Richard Davies also heard that in addition to the 21 cases brought to court, police allege that as many as 2,000 people may have been cheated since 1995. Star Art directors Au Man-kei, 28, Shum Hing-on, 27, and Cheung Lai-kuen, 27, and staff members Chu Doi-ying, 26, Ngai Lai-hung, 30, Yiu Ka-man, 23, Choy Ka-ki, 20, and Ng Ka-ming, 19, face a total of 33 counts of theft. They deny the charges. The court heard that victims were told the money was a refundable deposit for joining a training course. The court was told that the agency had 'talent spotters' looking out for potential models in a shopping arcade in Tsim Sha Tsui. The victims were told they could earn $10,000 to $50,000 for each job after receiving training, it was alleged. However, the court heard, they had to sign a document to become a member of the agency and were asked to give their bank and credit card personal identification numbers. The agency was raided and the suspects arrested on June 20, 1997, following a police undercover operation. The trial continues today.