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Michelle Elwood shows me pictures of her wedding eight years ago in Hawaii. Amid a backdrop of blue sky and even bluer water, she stands smiling with her husband. On her hand a one and a half carat ring (valued at $13,000) that her husband designed for her working with a jeweler friend in his native Florida.
She points to the engagement ring and wedding band saying “that symbolizes my husband and me.”
Unfortunately in terms of that symbol, it’s now just pictures in her book. More than a week ago, she took her rings to F.P Wortly Jewelry store at the Abercorn Commons in Savannah. That was on a Tuesday. She was told to pick them up Friday. “But when I came on Friday, there was a sign on the door that said the closed for the day, however there were people inside. They were packing up inventory but no one would answer the door and they wouldn’t answer the phone,” Elwood told me.
Her husband came back on Saturday to still find the store closed. She came back for a third time on Monday to find the same thing. That’s when she went online and found the business had filed for bankruptcy. We also confirmed the filing which was done on December 14, 2015.
So what about her rings? “Well, they seem lost at this point but I almost consider them stolen because I was promised my rings back on Friday and I still don’t have them,” Elwood said.
She’s angry the store took her rings last week when the bankruptcy filing was two months ago, indicating there must have been some idea the store might be forced to close. Tom Stephens of the Better Business Bureau had to agree. “I can’t find anything that says this would be illegal, it’s certainly unethical,” Stephens said.
He said Elwood’s only option now is to file a claim with the bankruptcy court using her receipt as proof of ownership. “So she’d have a pretty good chance of getting it back or at least getting paid for it but in some ways she’s stuck quite frankly,” Stephens said.
Whatever happens, Stephens says it may take months to resolve. He also says unfortunately, most consumers could find themselves in a similar situation. “It’s not like most of us check online to see if a favorite business has filed for bankruptcy especially if they are still open,” he said.
Elwood is concerned about the issue of time and how long she may be without her rings. And she’s disappointed in the business she trusted.”They didn’t even give us the courtesy of saying hey, this is what happened (and we have to close),” she told me.
The Bankruptcy Court has set a deadline for claims in this case for July 5, 2016. Claims can be filed online. A creditors meeting with the debtor is set for April 4th at 9:00am at the U.S. Trustee’s Office in Johnson Square in Savannah.