CHALMETTE, LA (WVUE) - More consumers have come forward alleging that they've waited more than a year for merchandise they ordered, but never received. Now we've learned that our FOX 8 Defenders furniture store fallout investigation has grabbed the attention of local law enforcement.
"I seen this new lovely sofa, and I wanted to go get me a dinette set too, and it was a glass table set with black chairs you know," Lakeitra Green of Chalmette said. Those two items are exactly what she ordered from Hamilton Enterprises Imports in Chalmette in July 2014. She put down $180 and agreed to finance the rest.
Green said it was months later when a delivery crew showed up.
"When they did come in, it was 11 o'clock at night," Green said. She said she was sleeping at the time, so her sister took delivery of the furniture.
"So when I woke up, I saw my sofa, but when I looked at my kitchen set I'm like, no, this is not what I ordered. So when I called, she (Lisa Hamilton) said, 'no Ms. Green, your table was on back order so I'm letting you use that,'" she said.
Green told us that Hamilton Enterprises offered her the opportunity to come in and order a completely different dinette set because hers was on back order. Green said she did that, but nearly a year and four months later, she still hasn't received the correct order.
"After months and months of waiting, the finance company, they started calling, complaining that their money was late. I said you worried about your money being late, but I haven't received the correct table set yet, and they said, 'what do you mean ma'am? They (Hamilton Enterprises) said you received your furniture,'" Green said.
Lakeitra Green joins a growing list of consumers who've alleged that they waited too long for furniture that they've either paid for in full up front or financed, and in one case, a customer has waited 21 months for her entire order.
"I actually called the sheriff's office because the Justice of the Peace man referred me to them. He says there's so many cases now, someone has taken it over - a detective," Green said.
St. Bernard Parish Justice of the Peace Tony Michieu confirms he was able to resolve a dozen complaints this year, but in the past couple of weeks, he tells FOX 8, he's received 12 more complaints against Hamilton. The sheriff's office confirms it will look into complaints from people who believe they may be a victim of fraud.
"There's certainly a pattern here, and I think it's worth investigating," Tulane law professor Joel Friedman said. "As soon as the agreement is made between the buyer and the seller, even before the buyer pays one penny, under Louisiana law, which is very pro-consumer, the buyer owns that thing, and the seller has the obligation to deliver it," Friedman explained. A delivery can be spelled out in a contract and if it's not, Friedman said it should happen within a reasonable amount of time. "Four months or anything beyond that, that's not reasonable."
From what we know, Lakeitra Green is the first consumer to file a formal police report.
"Lisa Hamilton, she just called me yesterday (Monday) after she found out I got in touch with the Justice of the Peace to file my charges, telling me that my table set came in last month," Green said.
We spoke with David Hamilton of Hamilton Enterprises by phone. He told us in Green's case, her kitchen set was out of stock, but because she needed a table right away, he says they swapped her to a different set that she didn't like so they allowed her to order another one, which just came in two weeks ago. In general, he says, "we try to go above and beyond when things are on back order or discontinued or they know it's gonna take a long time."
If you think you may be a victim of fraud, file a police report with the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office at (504) 271-2501, or go to 4700 Paris Road in Chalmette. You can also call the Louisiana Attorney General's Office Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 351-4889.
If you've got a consumer complaint, you can always call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at (504) 485-6397.