Distributors Claim Importer Stole Money
May 26, 2011
were each scammed out of thousands of dollars, a host of industry distributors
has accused unlisted South Carolina-based supplier Import & Export Group
LLC, along with its vice president Todd Fishman and owner Alfredo Lavieri, of fraud. In several documented cases,
distributors paid Import & Export Group either large deposits or the entire
order amount upfront and then never had their money returned when product
shipments were delayed by months or never delivered at all. "He's as
dishonest as the day is long," said Larry Schweiger,
president of The Alison Group (asi/116995), speaking about Lavieri.
"He cheated and lied 24/7 and cost us a lot of money."
Lori Caden, president of California-based Caden
Concepts (asi/155443), claims she was scammed out of $66,500 by Import &
Export Group in June of 2010 after placing an order for bags. "They were
recommended to me by a multi-line rep I trusted," she said. "Now I
see Lavieri is undercutting everybody and ripping
from Fishman that her order wouldn't be delivered on time, Caden
claims she was repeatedly ignored. "In the end, Lavieri
basically told me to sue him, so I did," she says. In addition to filing a
civil suit, Caden has published specific e-mails and
documents online related to her dealings with Import & Export Group, many
of which can be found at www.alfredolavieri.com. "I want to warn people
about him," she says.
the scam allegations, Lavieri's attorney John Dozier
called the claims against his client baseless, arguing that contractually his
client wasn't obligated to return deposit money. Dozier also says that Caden has launched what amounts to a witch-hunt to
discredit Import & Export Group, and as a result, Lavieri
has filed a countersuit against Caden claiming
defamation. "What we have here is one person creating an irrational
reaction and then everybody panics, forfeits deposits and cancels orders,"
Dozier said. "Caden has put incorrect
information all over the Web. It's become what I call a mobosphere
that's led to a self-perpetuating myth."
In total to
date, distributors have claimed Lavieri owes them
more than $600,000. That figure could reach $1 million if a handful of current
orders aren't delivered and if money isn't returned. "It makes me sick
because in dealing with Import & Export Group, I screwed over a real good
client," said Jack Hagerty, president of KYK
Specialty Advertising (asi/238547), who claims Lavieri
owes him $101,000.
To date, the
FBI has not filed charges against Fishman or Lavieri.
Under U.S. law, wire fraud can be difficult to
prove because an individual must be found guilty of "intending to devise
any scheme or artifice by means of false or fraudulent pretenses,
representations, or promises." Proving intent often complicates pursuit of
charges, and in this case, there is evidence showing Lavieri
did work with factories in China on related orders and did not simply
pocket the money on those orders.