Stenehjem alleges fraud in suit against Bridal Shop owner
FARGO – North Dakota’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit alleging the owner of a Fargo bridal shop engaged in fraud when she closed shop last August, leaving dozens of brides and bridal party members stranded without gowns they’d paid for but never received.
The lawsuit Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed Wednesday in Cass County District Court against Bridal Shop owner Gretchen Ingbretson states that Stenehjem received complaints from customers in the wake of the store’s sudden closing.
The lawsuit says Ingbretson made untrue representations to customers about when their dresses and accessories would be delivered, accepted prepayment for the goods, and then used the advance deposits for purposes other than ordering the bridal attire.
The lawsuit alleges Ingbretson engaged in deceptive acts or practices and asks that she pay a penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation, plus restitution to each customer.
Brides, their families and bridal party members said when the Bridal Shop closed that in many instances they had ordered and paid Ingbretson for wedding gowns sometimes nine months in advance of their weddings.
The dresses never arrived, they said. In many cases, it meant they had to pay for the gown again to get it shipped to Fargo from the manufacturer’s warehouse.
Other area bridal stores often stepped in to fill the gap, allowing brides to re-purchase their gowns from their stores at a discount.
In a stipulation filed in the case, Ingbretson agreed that she owes her customers $64,103.95 for the dresses, plus $1,000 for each violation of the agreement.
The lawsuit states that while the company represents itself as a form of business that would shield the people operating it from personal liability, Ingbretson forfeited that protection when she repeatedly committed consumer fraud.
The lawsuit is the latest in a half-dozen filed in Cass County court against Ingbretson and the Bridal Shop since it closed its doors.
As of Friday afternoon, no bankruptcy case was filed in federal court here under Ingbretson’s name or that of the Bridal Shop.
The attorney general’s lawsuit also seeks to have Ingbretson enjoined from doing business in wedding dresses for three years, or until her customers have been paid back.
A number listed as Ingbretson’s was disconnected.