FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- Our first complaint about Liz's Jewelers came in December and several more followed. Susan Wygant took 3 watches to the store, including a $500 family heirloom watch that is now missing. Claudette Minnear dropped off her mother's 40-year old watch in October. Both women say they've spent countless hours and dozens of phone calls searching for answers.
Claudette Minnear says, "The store was closed when it wasn't scheduled to be, calls weren't returned, I knew she had either lost or sold the ring."
Both women filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, where Liz Jeweler's has an "F" rating. They also filed complaints with the Attorney General's office. Both agencies show that Liz's never responded and the cases were closed. On May 21st, customers of Liz's got another surprise, the store at the Shops at Illinois was closed. According to Hanauer Associates who leased the space to owner Mary Pendergrass, she never paid them. They say they're out nearly $16,000 plus legal fees.
Rick Hanauer says, "It's a new experience for us, we weren't able to collect any rent. It was quite a legal process and took about 3 months to get an eviction."
It turns out Liz's Jewelers is still open for business, just down U.S. 30. They opened a new store last month at Columbia City's Town and Country Center, where we found owner Mary Pendergrass.
Mary told us she paid her rent except for the final month and that she moved out because they were raising the rent. As for the missing jewelry, she blames an ex-employee who she claims stole from her.
Mary Pendergrass/Owner Liz's Jewelers says, "My mistake was hiring someone that wasn't trustworthy, but other than that my goal is to make customers happy."
Mary Pendergrass told us she's been through two very painful personal issues. And while her customers are sympathetic, they still have questions. Questions that Susan Wygant finally got a chance to ask.
Mary Pendergrass says, "Granted, there's been some communication issues, but for the most part I keep my customers happy."
Susan Wygant says, "A reputable business doesn't operate this way, I had to follow you to get an answer about things. It's been a mess."
A few customers like Misty Huffman were able to track down their missing jewelry at Shannon Jewelers where it had been taken by Liz's for repair. As for Claudette and Susan, they don't ever expect to see their family jewelry again.
Susan Wygant says, "Beyond what I've lost, I'm concerned about Columbia City. I don't want anyone else to go through what I have."
Hanauer Associates will have their day in court in two weeks. Meanwhile, a countersuit has been filed on behalf of the owners of Liz's Jewelers. There have also been a number of small claims suits filed in court. Claudette Minnear won a judgment against Liz's Jewelers when the owner failed to show for the court hearing. The attorney for the store declined to show us proof that rent had been paid to Hanauer Associates, but said the details will come out in court. Since the story aired, two additional customers have approached us saying they also are missing jewelry that was taken to Liz's Jewelers.
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