The new owner of an area furniture store decides to change his name on the fly when FOX 29 Investigates shows up asking questions.
A flood of consumer complaints drew a visit from Investigative Reporter Jeff Cole. And our cameras were rolling as he pushed and pushed for answers.
The hospital bed in Deborah Osborne's tiny Northeast Philadelphia apartment is where she nursed her husband, John, until he died in December.
Now, it's where she sleeps.
Despite paying $2,400 for a bedroom set at Furniture Sir Plus, it's the only bed she has.
"So, you put $1,300 down and then you'd walk up there every week and give them cash?" Cole asked.
"Yes, I would," Osborne said.
"So, you wanted this thing you. You were dedicated to get it," Cole said.
"Yeah, I was. I really was," Osborne said.
She can see the store from her front window, on the Roosevelt Boulevard at Harbison Avenue.
It took this 60-hour-a-week store cashier about a year, but receipts show she paid off the last $72.98 in March and got ready for her brand-new bed, nightstand, dresser, mirror and lamps.
"They cashed the check, and that was it," Osborne said.
"Well, what do you mean? You paid for this thing. Where's your bedroom set?" Cole asked.
"They told me that the guy moved, that I have to go to small claims court. And they changed the name," Osborne said.
That's right, 2,400 hard-earned bucks later, and Osborne sleeps where her husband fought death.
"Hello, may I help you?" a man said as we walked into the furniture store.
"OK, yeah, you can, you can," Cole said. "Who are you?"
"Don't tape me," the man said.
"All right, well then you can't help me," Cole said.
When we showed up at the store, asking for the owner, we got the runaround.
"Hey, ma'am," Cole said to a saleswoman.
"I'm not talking!" she said.
"We're looking for Daniel Roberts," Cole said.
"He's not here right now," said a man.
"OK. Do you work for him, sir?" Cole asked.
"No. I'm just out here working on the lot," the man said. "It don't have nothing to do with Mr. Roberts."
Later, Cole asked, "Do you represent him, sir?"
"That's my brother," the man answered. "I'm going to explain to you …"
"Oh, Daniel Roberts is your brother? You're the right person for us to talk to," Cole said.
"I'm not the right guy. I'm just doing the grounds for my brother," he said.
He told us his name is Mark Johnson, the brother by another mother, he said, of owner Daniel Roberts.
We'll get back to this guy and his family tree in a moment.
But first, Furniture Sir Plus had two Philly locations. A newer store along the Roosevelt Boulevard recently closed. And a bright yellow, hulking warehouse on Lancaster Avenue in West Philly has been around for 25 years, owned by Mark Finkelstein of New Jersey.
Finkelstein says he sold Furniture Sir Plus in March to Daniel Roberts, who has draped a tarp over the old sign on Lancaster Avenue and renamed it King Furniture. But "Sir Plus" still shows up inside the store.
Roberts is the guy we came to see.
"Daniel you think is coming back?" Cole asked.
"He'll be probably here this evening," the man calling himself Mark Johnson told us.
"Tonight? He's not going to be here this afternoon?" Cole asked.
"No," the man said.
Cole went on to ask, "Well, what's happening to everybody who's spent thousands of dollars for furniture at Furniture Sir Plus and can't get their stuff?"
"I'm asking you, don't tape me," the man told us.
"Well, you're talking to me," Cole said.
"But you're in the store … You walk in the store, but you still want to tape," the man said.
"We're trying to figure out what's going on," Cole said.
"This ain't Sir Plus," was the man's response.
But it was as recently as March 31, the date on the sales agreement. And it sure looks like some Furniture Sir Plus customers who paid up have been told to pound sand.
FOX 29 Investigates has heard from a flood of them. We've built a list of 17 who have contacted us in recent weeks.
Only three have gotten their furniture, and all say there was trouble with delivery. The rest are either still waiting or have been told they'll get nothing.
"So, no one's getting anything from you guys?" Cole asked.
"My brother honored people from April, their merchandise. Anything that was in the past, no," said the man in the store.
So, who's responsible to get customers what they paid for? The former owner says the new guy, Daniel Roberts, is.
It's right in the sales agreement, where it states the "buyer shall assume the dollar amount of the accounts payable and liabilities for advanced payments by customers of seller."
In an email, Finkelstein wrote he's "offered to help Roberts" and was "cutting him slack on making required payments," but added, "I'm very disappointed that he has taken the reputation I had built over 25 years and destroyed it so quickly."
Yet, Finkelstein has problems of his own. Tax records show Lancaster Property Holdings, the company listed as the seller of Furniture Sir Plus, owes Philadelphia more than $12,000 in real estate taxes.
When asked about it, Finkelstein said there were others involved in that business, but he'd look at the bill and pay what he owes.
Pennsylvania tax records show liens of about $6,000 have been slapped on Finkelstein and his business since November of 2009.
Again, he said he'd look at them and pay what he owes.
And there's something else: We made one more visit to the furniture store and met another customer, who complained he'd been waiting since April 25 for a $1,500 bedroom set.
"Their word is not worth anything," customer Andre Morales said. "You know, so, I don't know what to do. … Of course, the receipt says I can't get my money back. So, my next step is legal action.
Cole told the worker in the store, "He put in 1,500 bucks, wants to get his furniture."
The man calling himself Mark Johnson answered, "He got his furniture. It's upstairs."
"Why can't he get it then?" Cole asked.
"As soon as the other two pieces come in, that's when he get it," the man replied.
While we were there, we asked again for Daniel Roberts. "Where's Daniel?" Cole inquired.
"Don't worry about where he at," the man in the store told us.
Guess what: He's Daniel Roberts!
We sent his picture to a customer and Finkelstein, the former owner. They spilled the beans.
When we called back, Roberts admitted he'd misled us, claiming the way we walked right in threw him off.
He now says he's working to the "best of his ability" to "take care of his customers."
Deborah Osborne is not holding her breath.
"What needs to happen now?" Cole asked her.
"I need to get my money back, and he needs to get his business shut down," Osborne said.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office says it's looking into this issue.
"Our office is aware that there is an issue, and it's being looked into," a spokeswoman said. "I can't say anything more nor can I confirm or deny an ongoing investigation. But I can tell you that if there is some type of wrongdoing, we will hold whoever is responsible responsible."
"We encourage any consumers who have not yet filed a complaint with our office to file a complaint with us," she went on to say. "The more information we have, the easier to either open an investigation or follow through with a current investigation."
The complaint form can be found online here: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedFiles/MainSite/Content/ComplaintForms/BCP_Complaint_Form.pdf
Former owner Mark Finkelstein says he's committed to work with Daniel Roberts to resolve all disputes, while complaining that some customers have canceled orders through their credit cards.
Some customers tell us they were told to do so by the new owner.
The store tells us that Osborne's furniture has been ordered. Morales got his Tuesday.
Based on our calls, others are still waiting and angry, Cole reported.