Dozens without sofas after owner closes up shop

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PHOENIX - A Valley furniture store unexpectedly closes-up shop leaving customers wondering where their orders are.

3 On Your Side has been following this story since the store closed in May.

That's when e-mails began pouring in from customers upset the business not only shut down overnight, but that the owner was nowhere to be found.

"Lost my job in the middle of October so money's been really really tight," Jeramie Raggio said.

Movie nights happen more often for Jeramie Raggio since he was laid off last year.

Because he had next to no furniture, Jeramie and his wife decided they needed a sofa set to make their extra time in front of the TV.

Jeramie ordered a sofa and loveseat for $800 from The Sofa Shoppe in February, but since then, he said all he's received is excuses.

"He said they haven't shown up yet," Jeramie said. "I'm expecting them later this week. Call back in a couple days he even told us because the economy is bad he thinks Jonathon Lewis isn't stalking the colors of sofas."

Then on May 30, The Sofa Shoppe unexpectedly shut its doors, leaving Jeramie and at least a half dozen 3 On Your Side viewers wondering where their money had gone.

3 On Your Side visited the Glendale store to find it completely empty.

Employees in the shopping center say since the store closed, they've seen a steady stream of shocked Sofa Shoppe customers still waiting on their furniture.

Several neighboring workers agreed there were many things peculiar about owner Augustinos Boukalis.

3 On Your Side heard numerous accounts of his unusual behavior from the time he poured white paint on someone's car for no apparent reason to the time he allegedly beat up a manager at a nearby McDonalds.

No one was home when 3TV stopped by an apartment listed under Boukalis's name and our calls weren't returned, but 3 On Your Side did receive word he may be selling sofas out of his parents carpet store.

You can see dozens of couches are stuffed inside this small storefront, but Boukalis was nowhere to be found.

Jeramie said he's learned a valuable and expensive lesson dealing with Boukalis, but wants to warn other consumers about him.

"Me and whoever else dealt with him pretty much got played," he said. "He seems like a nice guy on the outside but dig a little deeper and give him a little money and his true colors are gonna show."

3 On Your Side has learned Boukalis plead guilty to at least a dozen charges over the past ten years.

Below is a list of tips from the Better Business Bureau on what you should do if company you're involved with closes,

- Go to their last known location to see if the company has posted any instructions or signs. If not, ask neighboring companies if they know what may have happened. If the business was located in an office building, you should try contacting the landlord of the building.

- Send a letter to the company's last known address asking the owner to contact you. Even if the business is closed, the mail may be subject to a forwarding order. You can also pay a visit to your Post Office to see if the company has a forwarding address.

- If you don't know the name of the principals, check with your city or county clerk's office. They can provide you with this information. Consumers can expect to be charged a small fee.

- If the business is regulated, such as attorneys, doctors, engineers, employment services, new car dealers, etc., contact the licensing agency. If you're not sure whether the company is regulated, contact your state's Department of Licensing & Regulations office. They will be able to tell you how to contact the appropriate regulatory authorities.

- Contact the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court in the area where the company was located ( or 602-682-4000) to see if the company may have filed for bankruptcy.

- If you are successful in locating the owner and the business is not in bankruptcy, you are still owed your services, product or money. Closing a business does not relieve the owner of his or her obligation to you. If you cannot obtain an appropriate settlement from the company, file a complaint with the Attorney General's office, with Small Claims Court or seek the help of an attorney.

- If the company has filed for bankruptcy, you should file a claim with the Bankruptcy Court. The Court will suspend the company's obligation to creditors and customers until it approves a plan to reorganize or liquidate the company. Under the plan, you as a claimant, may or may not get all or part of what you are owed.

- Contact your Better Business Bureau. BBB does not trace companies, but it does receive information daily on a number of changes in business location and ownership and may be able to help you.