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Suit claims defunct North Dakota photo shop, owner committed consumer fraud

The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks to ban Glasser Images from providing future photography services, restitution for consumers and subcontractors, and appropriate civil penalties.

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The Glasser Images photography studio in downtown Bismarck appeared empty on Oct. 8, 2021.
Adam Willis / The Forum
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BISMARCK — North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley has filed a civil lawsuit in state court alleging that a defunct Bismarck photo business and its owner committed consumer fraud and other wrongdoing.

The complaint, more than 50 pages long, claims Glasser Images, its owner Jack Glasser and others knowingly entered into a deceptive scheme to violate North Dakota law and established a company policy consistent with that scheme.

The complaint also alleges the defendants defrauded consumers and subcontractors in multiple states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado.

The Attorney General's Office initiated a consumer fraud investigation in October 2021, after Glasser Images suddenly closed its doors and posted notice that it would not provide refunds.

To date, the attorney general's office has received 539 complaints alleging claims of more than $1.4 million.

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The closure of Glasser Images left wedding couples without photographers for immediately pending weddings, while other couples were denied the promised photos from a variety of special occasions.

Wrigley said the Consumer Protection Division of his office has conducted an extensive investigation and found substantial evidence supporting the allegations in the complaint.

Investigators gathered financial and accounting records, internal and external communications, and testimony from about 20 witnesses.

“Our complaint alleges that Glasser Images had been experiencing serious financial problems for years, but falsely blamed the business closure on the pandemic,” Wrigley said in a statement announcing the action taken by his office.

"Despite the business’s serious undercapitalization, Jack Glasser continued to borrow from banks, the government, friends, and family, while simultaneously enjoying a lifestyle of high-end dining, travel, and luxury vehicles, all at the expense of his business customers," Wrigley added.

Tim O'Keeffe, an attorney representing Glasser Images and Jack Glasser, issued the following statement Tuesday evening:

“Jack has been devastated by the closing of Glasser Images and the negative impact it has taken on his clients, employees, subcontractors, and the community. In that spirit, Jack has worked tirelessly to get his clients’ memories back to them, and has cooperated throughout the attorney general’s investigation with complete transparency," O'Keeffe wrote.

"Unfortunately, despite assurance from the assistant attorney general that he shared Jack’s desire to help Glasser Images’ clients, he decided to issue this civil lawsuit before even sharing it with Jack — revealing that the AG’s Office chose to grab some cheap headlines, regardless of it helping nobody but himself. The AG’s Office has asserted their own opinions into the complaint, which is full of speculation and puffery. We maintain that this is a failed business and not an elaborate conspiracy," O'Keeffe added.

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The suit alleges that at a time when Glasser Images was in financial trouble, Jack Glasser and his business partner, Jace Schacher, would regularly use Glasser Images to pay for meals and drinks, including at Pirogue Grille and The Luft in Bismarck, where they went multiple times a week.

"On one occasion, the business purchased a $400 meal for Jack's birthday at Pirogue," the lawsuit states, adding that Glasser and Schacher's weekly meals cost the business hundreds of dollars that neither of them repaid.

The lawsuit also alleges that in May of 2021 Glasser and Schacher used Glasser Images' credit card to pay for a $10,000 trip to Wyoming, including $8,000 for lodging alone.

About two weeks before that trip, Glasser claimed to his accountant that Glasser Images qualified for $2 million in Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds based on its operating expenses, and Glasser asked for the accountant's help and insight on obtaining the funding, according to the suit, which claims the business ultimately was approved for nearly $400,000 in federal disaster loans tied to pandemic relief.

Shortly after the business was approved for the funds, Jack Glasser sent an email to employees telling them he was delaying payroll, the suit claims.

Stacia Alsleben booked Glasser Images five years ago for her wedding that ended up getting pushed back two years due to the pandemic, and is now out $3,000.

She also worked as a subcontractor for Glasser to help grow her own business, Stacia Marie Images.

"I hadn't gotten paid since May of 2021, so I'm out over $10,000," Alsleben told WDAY News.

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Despite the company's precarious financial position, Glasser Images continued to take advance payments from clients for a year knowing it likely would not be able to provide what it promised, according to the suit, which claims Jack Glasser's accountant suggested he consult a bankruptcy attorney.

Instead, the suit says, Glasser Images continued to solicit advance payments from clients and potential clients without disclosing its poor financial condition, right up to the day it closed.

"(Jack Glasser's) narrative is that Glasser Images closed abruptly on Oct. 7, 2021, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business," the suit states, adding: "This is nothing more than a ready-made excuse employed by Jack and Glasser Images intended to garner sympathy from the public. ... But, no one should be fooled. Glasser Images’ failure was the inevitable result of Jack’s mismanagement and personal financial exploitation of the business."

The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks to ban Glasser from providing future photography services, restitution for consumers and subcontractors, and civil penalties.

In addition to the recently filed suit, Glasser Images has been the focus of a number of small claims cases in state court, as well as a lawsuit filed in federal court .

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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