"I think I've been scammed big. I really do," says Sonja Lewis of Tyler. Her company, Master Forger, needed an upholsterer to re-do a couch to look like a remake of a 1934 log lodge in Colorado.
"I looked up Gilberto's name in the phone book," she says recalling that day. Gilbert Gutierrez is the name of the man she says claimed to be the owner of A1 Apache Upholstery in Tyler.
"So he said 'I'm a master upholsterer.' And he says 'I can order these supplies for you and I can do the upholstery." Sonja says they settled on a quote, where she wrote him a check for $2200 as a down payment. Weeks turned into months and still no couch.
"Then I call him and [Gilbert] says 'I've got to go get this leather. I've got to drive to Louisiana to get it. But, it's more money than I thought it was going to be so I need another $1800.' So I said 'Wait a minute what about the $2200?'" Not to our surprise, that $2200 check was cashed the same day she gave it to him. "I feel like a total victim!," says Sonja.
7 On Your Side went to the business address of A1 Apache Upholstery. It led us to a house on CR 376. The place was deserted when we arrived. It was clear it hadn't been open for business. "Right now, the thing I've got a warrant for and charged him with is just blatant theft," says Precinct 2 Constable Frank Creath. He is also searching for Gilbert Gutierrez to bring him to justice. But the law is working in Gilbert's favor.
Creath says with no search warrant, the police don't have the power to go on his property to recover the couch. "Legally he would have a lot of recourse on us on something like that," says Creath.
Sonya says she has learned a lesson in this experience, she hopes that Gilbert Gutierrez learns the same when he is found. "I would want to say I am ashamed that you would do this to honest hard-working people. I would be ashamed. I cannot believe that you would want to be ripping off people for no reason."
Christine Nelson, reporting. firstname.lastname@example.org