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How Gemase Simmons chewed up and spit out young fame-hungry victims for years

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Gemase Lee Simmons after an arrest in 2008. Photo courtesy of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.

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Local freelance cameraman Izzy Cardoza remembers Simmons calling him in 2008 to film. “He told me he was a production assistant, and that their camera crew had backed out.” Simmons needed a crew fast, so Cardoza offered to gather a team that would shoot for $13,000. Simmons didn’t pay upfront, so Cardoza held onto the tapes as collateral.

“Looking back, it all should have dawned on me, it should have clicked sooner than it did,” Cardoza told the Current. “But it was all so rushed.” When Cardoza showed up to film, Simmons was no longer an “assistant,” but center of the show. Cardoza thought the crew should shoot round-the-clock —standard reality TV fare, he says — but Simmons insisted on having long, drawn out stretches with contestants where cameras weren’t rolling.

“Pretty soon, I got uncomfortable with the whole thing,” Cardoza said. One contestant, a young woman, abruptly left the show due to an unwanted sexual encounter with Simmons. More allegations surfaced from young male models claiming Simmons pulled them into his hotel room, promising them high-profile work in exchange for sex.

When Cardoza never got paid, he quit and contacted Dateline. Chris Hansen, of To Catch a Predator fame, aired it all out on national TV.

When Simmons finally sat down for an on-camera interview with Hansen, he gave many of the same ludicrous excuses he’d repeat in a San Antonio federal court five years later.

On his Facebook page, Simmons still has a photo posted of himself with Hansen.

Simmons is beaming. Hansen sports what appears to be a forced, uncomfortable smile.

***

Just a year after his Dateline drubbing, Gemase Simmons “discovered” Mackenzie through Facebook and MySpace. Calling himself “C.J.,” he reached out to her online.

“He told me I was pretty, that I should consider modeling,” Mackenzie testified. A recent high school graduate, Mackenzie took the bait, and soon enough “C.J.” told her to go meet Simmons in person. Mackenzie knew Simmons as “Jeff David” throughout her time with him. Mackenzie joined Simmons for “fittings” at outlet stores in San Marcos. She never saw him buy a single article of clothing, and the fittings were never coordinated with store staff. Meanwhile, “C.J.” pushed her to text headshots of herself. Then full body shots. Then “C.J” told her she had to send nudes if she wanted to be considered for any lucrative modeling jobs.

“C.J” soon enough demanded she take part in photo “sessions,” which eventually involved having sex with Simmons.

“I told myself, if this is what it takes to be a model, go for it,” Mackenzie testified, crying on the stand.

She tried to back out, but soon heard from an agency called “Kelly Reynolds Modeling” — another of Simmons’ online creations that exist only in emails, text messages, and on Facebook — instructing her to send more graphic photos and videos to be considered for high-paying work. She sent a few, then tried again to quit, asking the agency to delete her images.

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