One local bride who claims she was ripped off by a store selling wedding gowns wants to make others aware of what she believes to be a scam.
After getting engaged last summer, Ferry Point resident Cara Sohmers put a deposit on a dress at a store in Yonkers that was supposed to be a custom-made, off-white bridal dress with crystals. In July 2009, she made an up-front cash payment of $1,000. Four months later, when Sohmers had still not received the dress, she began to get suspicious that the deal may have been too good to be true.
The shop, called La Bella C. Alexa Bridal Couture Store, was located at 622 Yonkers Avenue in Yonkers, N.Y. When it closed, Sohmers still had not received her dress and she filed a Yonkers Small Claims Court case against the shop’s owner, who uses an alias, but said her name is Michele Mears.
Sohmers also reached out to Senator Jeff Klein’s office, which launched its own investigation. Klein’s office found two dozen other brides who said they had been allegedly ripped off by Mears at different shops in Westchester.
“Originally she told me that she was a designer and she made the gowns herself,” Sohmers said. “She said her name was Lena Garrio. Then she told me that she had actually ordered the gown [not made it herself]. When I went back to the store and confronted her, and asked her for proof that she ordered the gown, all she did was shuffle papers. She had no proof.”
After Mears failed to appear in Yonkers Small Claims court, Sohmers won a default judgement against her in April. According to Sohmers, she has not received any payment. Mears, who has since opened a new shop called Lily Fluer Bridaltier at 3188 Philip Avenue, claims she is indeed paying Sohmers back. She also claimed she had been willing and able to provide Sohmers with her dress, but after six months, she never came in to pick it up.
“She gave me a deposit and after six months did not pick up the dress,” Mears said. “She went to small claims court and won a judgement, but I was never notified that there was a hearing. I am paying off the judgement.”
After Klein’s investigation found that the shop owner relocated to the Bronx. Sohmers was distressed to learn that the person she believes strung her alongmay do the same thing to others.
“It is very upsetting that someone would take advantage of women on what is the most important day of their lives,” Sohmers said.
Mears maintained that she has hundreds of satisfied customers, and has always been in good standing with the vast majority of her customers at various bridal boutiques she has operated. Senator Klein urged all brides to be vigilant.
“For these brides, what was supposed to be one of the happiest times in their lives turned into a nightmare,” Klein said. “My office is working with local enforcement officials in an effort to stop fraudulent acts from being perpetrated against hard working New Yorkers. I encourage anyone who may have been victim to contact my office immediately.”