WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Wedding plans withered when several local couples ran into problems with a flower shop in West Seneca, sparking a Call 4 Action investigation.
The owner of the Plaid Petunia has reached a settlement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, agreeing to pay back all the deposits the brides-to-be had paid in advance for floral arrangements and other wedding-related services.
“It was pretty much all the flowers for my whole ceremony,” said Kara Bystrzak, a Niagara Falls bride-to-be who paid $429 to the Plaid Petunia.
Katie Deleo of Buffalo paid $750 for deposits on flowers and a wedding photographer through the West Seneca store.
“I thought I was getting the most amazing deal from this one guy,” she said.
Now Bystrzak and Deleo and 17 other brides-to-be have been paid back as part of an “Assurance of Discontinuance” with the State Attorney General. Sean Tober, owner of the Plaid Petunia, has paid back all $4,300 in restitution.
“Mr. Tober has agreed to make 100 percent restitution to all consumers who made advance payments to the Plaid Petunia, prior to the store shutting down,” says Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey, who believes Tober might be a victim himself.
Last month, the flower shop abruptly closed after taking thousands of dollars worth of deposits from brides-to-be. Tober says the man he hired to run the shop for four weeks preyed on unsuspecting customers.
Call 4 Action uncovered that the manager, Billy Parnell, also known as “Billy Russell Tomlinson,” is connected to similar schemes in Niagara County, Baltimore, and South Carolina.
“I think Mr. Tober was scammed by this person whose name we know as Russell Pannell,” says Morrissey, who led the Attorney General’s investigation, and points out, Pannell walked away with the ill-gotten gains while Tober paid the restitution.
“Mr. Tober brought in Mr. Pannell to operate his store without doing a sufficient background check on him. But I would characterize Mr. Tober as a victim as well.”
As for all those future brides and their families in the heat of planning weddings, Attorney General Schneiderman says try to keep those plans from burning your wallet.
“Don’t pre-pay wedding vendors in full. Always withhold at least 25 percent of the total cost until the goods or services have been provided,” he recommends.
Bystrzak now says she is very happy with the Plaid Petunia settlement. She got every dime back, and so did the other 18 future brides.
The Attorney General’s investigators believe all the missing down payments have been recovered, but if you paid a deposit to the Plaid Petunia, and didn’t get your money’s worth, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 853-8404.