Vendors want refund after expo canceled

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PHOENIX -- It was supposed to be a huge expo where business women could sell items and make some money, but the women say they feel like they were ripped off.

Ripped off because the expo never happened.

It was called the Divas Expo and it was kind of like a convention where women could shop and sell stuff.

But after several women put down deposits to reserve space at the expo, the promoter canceled the event at the last minute and never returned the deposits.

Linda Merisola loves selling women's clothes and she's able to sell her inventory by taking them around to different conventions and expos in the state.

So, when she heard about something called the Divas Expo that was scheduled to take place in early November, she immediately called to reserve a spot.

"All conventions you have to put a deposit down at least two months out before the event," Merisola said.

According to the Divas Expo ad, there were supposed to be up to 100 vendors, so Merisola says she paid $1,000. She put half on her credit card and the other half she wrote a check to make sure she had a space.

She paid the money to the event's promoter, Bryan Berkley.

But just days before the Divas Expo was to happen, vendors like Merisola say they got an unexpected phone call from Berkley saying the event was canceled because of an sick relative.

In one message Berkley said, "This has been a difficult decision and I hope it doesn't put you out. I want to make sure you are taken care of."

Taken care of? Merisola thought that meant returning her $1,000. But Merisola says that refund never happened and she's not the only one.

Several women complained to 3 On Your Side, saying they paid Berkley but he never returned their money after canceling the event.

Berkley did not want to talk to 3 On Your Side on camera, but in a phone conversation he told us he'd like to return the money to vendors like Merisola but it's gone.

"I would be happy to make arrangements with you," he said. "I don't know when or how because I don't even have a job right now."

Berkley claims the other reason he canceled the event was because of that sick relative.

"My life is upside down and then to have you call me, it's like, it's too much, man," he said.

But Merisola, like other vendors, just wants her money back.

"He won't return phone calls, he won't return e-mails, his Web sites have all been taken down," Merisola said.

Berkley says if vendors want to be re-paid, they can dispute it on their credit card and get their money back that way. That's exactly what Merisola did to get half of her $1,000 returned.

If they paid by check, he says he'd like to re-pay people, but considering the circumstances it doesn't look good.

The Arizona Corporation Commission says Berkley is connected with other businesses, including Cecy Girl and a publication called Chic Style magazine.