CITY HALL — The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges against the former owner and managers of Cozi Couch, a high-end custom furniture store in Santa Monica and Los Angeles that many customers have accused of not delivering merchandise that was paid for.
The misdemeanor complaint charges the defendants with grand theft, false advertising and doing business without a city business license, said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky with the Consumer Protection Unit, which conducted an investigation into complaints by customers in conjunction with the state Bureau of Home Furnishings and the Santa Monica Police Department.
The four defendants in the case are Arman Hazarian, the owner of the business; and his three managers, Cory Iturribarria, Nelson Freytes and Jaime Seoane.
If found guilty, the defendants could face thousands of dollars in fines and jail time. The defendants were supposed to be arraigned Wednesday but that hearing was postponed until Nov. 12, allowing time for a possible settlement, Radinsky said.
An attorney representing the defendants did not return phone calls seeking comment.
“We have complaints from more than 50 separate individuals,” Radinsky said. “The gist is most of them didn’t receive what they purchased. A small number received partial orders.”
The Santa Monica store, located at Seventh Street and Wilshire Boulevard, went out of business in March 2009.
At that time, disgruntled customers, some of whom filed civil lawsuits, staged at least one protest and called police when they saw a store employee moving furniture into a U-Haul truck under the cover of night. Officers arrived just as the employee drove off, dealing a blow to the customers’ hopes of recovering their furniture or their cash.
“They prey on housewives — kind, nice, decent people — and play on their heartstrings,” Joan Blackman, a Malibu resident, said during a protest months ago. Blackman came to Santa Monica clutching a pillow she hoped to match to an ottoman to replace the one the store never gave her.
“You get so angry!” Blackman said.
There were rumors that the owner had fled the country and state investigators said they were having difficulties tracking down people connected with the store.
The plot became murkier with the sudden closure of the Santa Monica store, the last of the Cozi Couch outlets in the Southern California area to close its doors. According to real estate agent Rudy Quintanar of Lee & Associates, Hazarian was plagued by rent problems that led to the company’s eviction from the Wilshire location.
The company had an F-rating with the Better Business Bureau earlier this year. According to its Web site, the Better Business Bureau assigns an F when they “strongly question a company’s reliability,” particularly when there are a number of complaints and the complaints contain serious allegations.