Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213
BISMARCK, ND – The Burleigh county district court has entered a judgment against the defunct Spa D’Athena and its owners, Jill Becker and Brent Voorhees, ordering them to pay $275,195 in restitution to the consumers they defrauded. Becker and Voorhees were also ordered to pay civil penalties of $28,660, and banned from doing business in the state.
“Becker and Vorhees intentionally sold worthless gift cards up until the financial collapse and closure of the business. Then, they repeatedly refused to accept any responsibility or show any remorse for their conduct,” said Parrell Grossman, director of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection division.
Consumer Protection investigators determined that Becker and Voorhees continued to sell gift cards for future spa services, even as they made plans to close the business in 2017. Becker and Voorhees refused to cooperate with investigators, forcing the Attorney General’s office to take legal action against them. During the litigation, the Consumer Protection division found evidence of additional fraudulent and deceptive acts, including records showing over $500,000 in gift card debts and that assets of Spa D’Athena were diverted to pay expenses of “Athena’s Touch,” a separate business run by Voorhees, and to make Becker’s child support payments.
While the legal action was pending in Burleigh county, Becker and Voorhees moved to Nevada and filed bankruptcy for themselves and their businesses, admitting they did so to discharge debts owed to the customers for the gift cards.
“Unfortunately, because the restitution likely will be discharged in the bankruptcy, it means there is no money for refunds to consumers who purchased the worthless Spa D’Athena gift cards,” said Grossman.
According to Parrell Grossman, director of the Consumer Protection division, most businesses take steps to refund gift card purchases when closing a business, and this case was unusual. “Their conduct was inexcusable and it was very unfortunate that, despite concentrated efforts to obtain relief for consumers in state court, these defendants avoided their obligations to make refunds by leaving the state and filing bankruptcy in Nevada,” Grossman said.
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