CHALMETTE, LA (WVUE) - The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office says it's now investigating eight written complaints from consumers against Hamilton Enterprises in Chalmette. They began taking a closer look after a series of FOX 8 Defenders reports addressed several families who claim they've waited too long for furniture that they've either paid for in full or financed.
Janet Biggs of New Orleans East ordered a living room set nearly two years ago.
"Oh, it'd be in your house before Christmas. Christmas came and left," explained Biggs. Now, another Christmas has come and gone and she's still waiting.
Owner David Hamilton told us last month Biggs' order was leaving California on Nov. 25 and that he'd get it in five days. Over a month later, Mr. Hamilton told us Biggs' furniture hasn't arrived to his warehouse, but would very shortly.
Meantime, the FOX 8 Defenders have also learned the IRS seized Hamilton Enterprises' commercial property at 2200 East Judge Perez Dr. because of federal tax liens, meaning the taxpayer neglected or refused to fully pay their debt on time.
"My theory is that if these people had the money, or had access to get the money, there would have never been a seizure and a sale," explained Patrick Lynch, a CPA with Rogers, Lynch & Associates LLC. "They would have paid the taxes."
Lynch also says Hamilton Enterprises could have appealed the IRS and worked to come to a consensus on what was owed. "Well if that didn't happen, to me, it means they didn't have the where withal to get the money to pay it," said Lynch.
The IRS auctioned off the Judge Perez Drive property earlier this month. The top bid was more than $163,000 dollars and the bidder was Lisa Hamilton, who runs Hamilton Enterprises along with her husband, David.
A public records search reveals many tax liens filed against Hamilton Enterprises' property, from payroll tax liens and corporate income tax liens to sales tax liens. "If there are sales tax liens, that means they collected the money from their customer, and they have not remitted to the Department of Revenue," Lynch said.
The FOX 8 Defenders also found a judgment against Hamilton Enterprises ordering the furniture company to pay its supplier more than $21,000 for furniture ordered in 2011. Lynch weighs in on what the judgment, tax liens and consumer complaints say about the company's financial climate.
"The company obviously is not generating cash flow to sustain itself," Lynch said. "If they were operating at a profit and had sustainable earnings, they would be able to get a loan from a bank, a working capitol loan to meet these obligations as they come due."
Lynch says it's at the IRS' discretion whether to will litigate civilly or criminally.
David Hamilton said he's very aware of the tax liens and is working hard at getting them caught up and cleared up. As for the judgment, he said they are paying on it and went on to say it was not disputed for being incorrect.
If you've got a similar consumer complaint, call the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office or call the Louisiana Attorney General's Office consumer protection line at 1-800-351-4889. If you've got a consumer concern, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397 or fill out an online complaint form.