NJ Attorney General To Prom Dress Rescue
Attorney general tells girls who purchased a dress from seized Wayne shop that their gowns have been secured
Four days after the state seized the assets of a Wayne dress shop whose owner allegedly faked a $20,000 dress theft, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa told girls that his office is keeping their gowns under lock and key.
The state filed a complaint against Red Carpet Pageant on Tuesday, accusing it of violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by engaging in “unconscionable commercial practices, false promises, misrepresentation, and deception.”
A judge ordered a temporary freeze of owner Patricia Dowling’s assets and the impounding of the merchandise in the store, and granted the Division of Consumer Affairs permission to change the locks.
Twenty-five dresses remain in the store, Chiesa said, 15 of which were purchased by prom-goers and need to be picked up. Sixteen customers allegedly paid Red Carpet a total of $5,400 for dresses that have not been provided.
“We’ll do everything we can to get your dress to you,” Chiesa said during a press conference held outside the Route 23 shop Friday afternoon.
Dana Bandarek, a Vernon high school senior, received her dress earlier in the day, and her mother said she was "very grateful" for the efforts of the attorney general and the DCA.
The store took orders and payment for dresses earlier this year, but shut down operations in the middle of prom season, the complaint alleges. Several people called the Wayne Police Department and the DCA to complain that they did not receive their dresses despite paying for them.
"The store in this business knows that there is a time component to these dresses and there's a personal component to these dresses," Chiesa said. "In the event that we don't get the dresses back to [buyers], whatever recourse we can help them with we'll be happy to do that."
The state is seeking a permanent freeze of the Dowling’s assets, full restitution, and the imposition of civil penalties, costs and fees. The parties are due in court on June 29.
Dowling notified police that $20,000 in dresses was stolen from the store in mid-May. She alleged that the rear door of the facility was left unlocked.
Police later watched video from the store that they say shows Dowling removing 40 dresses off a rack and placing them in a storage room. Dowling originally told police that cameras at the business do not record.
Dowling was issued a summons for filing a false police report, police said.
Dowling was scheduled to appear in Wayne Municipal Court Thursday, but failed to appear, Detective Capt. James Clarke said. Judge Peter Weiss issued a $500 bench warrant for her arrest.
Consumers who are seeking garments or a refund from Red Carpet may contact the DCA at 973-504-6321. They need to provide documentation they purchased a dress in order to obtain it.
Chiesa said some of the dresses might not be altered to a customer's specifications.