With more than 40 consumer complaints reportedly lodged with different agencies in the past five years against a Metro East upholstery and auto repair business, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against the operator of the business for allegedly accepting down payments from customers and then failing to perform the contracted services.
Madigan’s lawsuit names as a defendant Melvin T. Fluck, of Swansea, doing business both as Tom’s Paint & Auto Care and Tom’s Upholstery. Filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court, the lawsuit charges Fluck with violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
Madigan said her office’s Consumer Protection Division and the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois have received a combined 44 consumer complaints against Fluck. Customers of Fluck’s businesses allege in their complaints that they have lost $35,985 in down payments – ranging from $300 to $3,000 per customer – for services that were either never completed or were completed in an unsatisfactory fashion.
A number of customers also allege that Fluck has never returned the cars and furniture left with him for repair or upholstering despite numerous requests. Because Fluck relocated his businesses in 2004 from Belleville to a location nine miles away in Caseyville, some customers have found it difficult to locate and contact Fluck, Madigan alleges in the lawsuit.
“The large number of consumer complaints filed against Mr. Fluck and the similarity in the allegations display a pattern of fraudulent business practices,” Madigan said. “With this lawsuit, we hope to prevent Mr. Fluck from victimizing additional consumers and ensure that his previous customers are reimbursed for down payments for work that has not been performed.”
The majority of the complaints against Fluck were lodged between 2000 and 2004 by customers in St. Clair, Madison and Marion Counties as well as customers in St. Louis County, Missouri. Madigan’s office has worked on behalf of the consumers to mediate the complaints; however, the company has been unresponsive.
According to one consumer complaint received by Madigan’s office, a Belleville consumer paid Fluck a down payment of $400 in November 2003 to have two love seats re-upholstered. He allegedly promised the project would be completed and the furniture delivered before Christmas 2003. To date, more than two-and-a-half years later, the love seats have not been returned and the consumer has not received a refund of her deposit.
According to another complaint, a senior citizen paid Fluck a down payment of $375 in June 2004 to have repairs made to her automobile. The customer, also from Belleville, did not believe the repairs were being made in a timely fashion and reclaimed her car from Fluck. However, one year later, the customer has only reportedly received a refund of $100 of her deposit.
Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to prohibit the defendant from engaging in the business of upholstery and auto repair and from further violating Illinois’ consumer protection laws.
The lawsuit seeks a civil penalty of $50,000 and additional penalties of $50,000 per violation found to be committed with the intent to defraud. The suit also seeks $10,000 per violation committed against a person 65 or older. Finally, Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to order the defendant to pay restitution to consumers.
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