Carolina Furniture Owner Faces Criminal Fraud Charges
Posted January 22, 2003 1:08 a.m. EST
BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. — The owner of a North Carolina-based furniture company faces criminal charges for taking money and not delivering furniture
Five On Your Side first told the story of Henry Lee Privette and his company, Carolina Furniture, in October. At that time, the business had 70 complaints filed with the
North Carolina Attorney General's Office
. Since that time, the number of complaints have doubled.
Last March, Lauren Faulkner ordered a bed from Privette, who owns two online furniture companies: Carolina Furniture.com and millerburnfurniture.com.
Faulkner paid $365 up front and was supposed to receive her furniture order within three months. She said the bed never arrived.
"They started telling me the bed was in, the bed wasn't in -- that the furniture was in another warehouse that wouldn't send out deliveries. I just kept getting the same excuses," she said. That is when Faulkner contacted Five On Your Side.
Five On Your Side found Privette had a history of problems.
Four years ago, Privette was arrested on fraud charges in South Carolina and agreed to stop selling furniture there. Two months later, he moved his business to North Carolina.
Five On Your Side found that Privette's problems moved with him.
After the story was posted to
, Five On Your Side received e-mail from customers across the country, including Illinois, New York and Florida. All of the complainants said they paid Privette for furniture they did not get. Combined, they paid out more than $50,000.
North Carolina's Attorney General has about 200 complaints against Privette; half were filed in the last six weeks.
"Every day we have a number of complaints against Carolina Furniture," attorney Christine Lanning said.
Lanning said Privette's business is under investigation, and said until recently, he resolved complaints quickly.
When Privette was arrested in Brunswick County last week, he denied doing anything criminal.
"The economy has slowed up. It has caused us to be a little bit longer in our delivery time, but we haven't done anything wrong," he said.
Lanning does not buy Privette's excuse.
"There are a lot of furniture retailers that operate out of the state of North Carolina. Right now, this is the only business that we're aware of that is anywhere near this level of trouble," she said.
"He couldn't run a business in South Carolina and now he's in North Carolina running a business. It just made me mad," Faulkner said.
After Five On Your Side contacted Privette, he refunded Faulkner's $365. Faulkner and other customers want him out of business.
While Privette faces criminal fraud charges, his furniture companies are still open for business.
Lanning said even with Privette's problems in South Carolina, there is nothing that could have been done legally to keep him from doing business in North Carolina. Now that he is not resolving complaints, the N.C. Attorney General's Office is looking at its options and could file civil charges as well.
Privette is scheduled to appear in a Brunswick County courtroom on the criminal fraud charges in February.