Furniture frustrations: How to avoid getting taken

CARLSTADT, New Jersey (WABC) -- It's one of the most complained about consumer problems - furniture stores that take your money, but don't deliver. One New Jersey furniture store owner has, law enforcement says, left behind a string of unhappy customers. 7 On Your Side tracked down the owner at his shuttered showroom.

Customers of this furniture store owner known him as Lev Stanik. Admittedly, he owed more than a dozen consumers, money or merchandise.

Last fall, Amit Panchal paid $5,000 to one of Stanik's company's, Modern Home Concepts. He was supposed to get a sectional, ottoman, a headboard and two night stands. But months later, he only got the bed and the couch. He says he's out roughly $1,000.

He thought he ordered Italian leather made from Italy, but we couldn't find any manufacturer marking. All 7 On Your Side found was writing in Chinese. Stanik insisted the Italian leather was from China.

Lev Stanik is also well-known to Bergen County Consumer Affairs as Mr. Furniture, Ornatti LLC, or half a dozen different business names depending on which customer complaint they're investigating.

"Not delivering not giving refunds if he did send the products, wrong color wrong products, damaged furniture, furniture missing parts instruction," are just some of the issues, Steve Mercer of the Bergen County Consumer Affairs is investigating.

The county levied $12,000 in fines on the business owner, operating out of the back of another showroom in Carlstadt, New Jersey.

The Carlstadt Police Department know Lev Stanik by a different term: suspect. Detective Sergeant John Cleary's been investigating Lev Stanik since October. Last month Stanik turned himself in to face five charges of theft and bouncing checks.

"He takes either forever or doesn't deliver at all, and if he does deliver its less quality or number," Detective Cleary said.

So what is the reason that people order and don't get their stuff, and then can't get their money back? Stanik said his suppliers didn't deliver. But, after 7 On Your Side left, a few days later we asked for Amit's refund. Two checks, $800 and nearly $600 finally arrived.

Stanik pleaded not guilty, but met with Consumer Affairs in Bergen County and agreed to pay all of his customer restitution as well as entered into a payment plan for the fines.

Your big takeaway: Always get a delivery date in writing, that's the law. Furniture stores must deliver on the date in writing -if they don't provide an alternate delivery date or you're entitled to a refund. Always pay with a credit card and avoid cash or checks which give you no recourse.
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