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Defrauded Prom Dress Customers Will Receive Refunds

Former owners ordered to pay more than $100,000 in civil penalties after authorities said they deceived customers and took payments for prom dresses they never provided.

Customers who purchased prom dresses from the now defunct Red Carpet Pageant and Prom store will receive refunds, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced Wednesday morning.

The state Division of Consumer Affairs obtained a final judgment against the North Jersey prom dress company. The State Division of Law filed a complaint against the store in June, accusing it of violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.

The judgment allows the DCA to distribute $2,900 in restitution to 11 customers who are still waiting for refunds from the store.

“This judgment brings victory to the consumers who were defrauded after they paid large, up-front deposits for dresses that were supposed to be ready in time for the prom, a major event in an adolescent’s life,” Chiesa said in the statement.

The money will be taken from the proceeds of a court-ordered auction of unclaimed dresses and other items in the store in August.

The store’s former owners, Patricia and Michael Dowling, and Prom and Pageant Place LLC, which Patricia Dowling also owns, must pay $110,000 in civil penalties, Chiesa announced in a statement.

The remaining funds from that auction, approximately $6,000, will be used to help pay $18,000 due to Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis LLP, the law firm that acted as the court-appointed receiver of the company's assets and merchandise.

The attorney general’s office took possession of the dresses after it filed a complaint accusing the Dowlings of engaging in unconscionable commercial practices and allegedly deceiving customers.

The Dowlings must also pay $26,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Dowling claimed last June that 40 dresses valued at $20,000 were stolen from the store. Dowling told police that the rear door of the facility was not secured and that the cameras at the business did not record anything.

Wayne police watched video they said showed Dowling removing 40 dresses off a rack herself. The video shows Dowling placing the dresses in a storage room. Dowling was issued a summons for filing a false police report.

Wayne police could not be reached for comment.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Donatello Nobatti February 21, 2013 at 01:10 PM
WIth this high-profile fraud case resolved, the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs can go back to sleep for another couple of years.
Justice February 21, 2013 at 11:50 PM
This case was given to them on a silver platter.

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