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The owners of the defunct FWS furniture store in Buffalo are being sued by State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman over as much as $250,000 in advance payments that its customers made for merchandise they never received.

The lawsuit seeks to recover advance payments made by FWS' customers, which the Attorney General's Office estimated could total between $160,000 and $250,000. It also seeks to bar FWS' owners, John Grimaldi and John Wanat, from operating another business in New York without posting a $500,000 performance bond.

"This company and its owners operated with a complete disregard for their customers' hard-earned money," Schneiderman said in a statement Monday.

"Many people save for years to make such large purchases, and FWS' careless practices have left customers out in the cold with thousands of dollars lost and few options to recover those funds," he said. "These unscrupulous business practices ripped off Western New York consumers, and we will hold the perpetrators accountable for this misconduct."

Grimaldi and Wanat could not be reached to comment.

Grimaldi and Wanat purchased FWS in May 2010, but Schneiderman said the company continually lost money, with losses during this year topping $400,000 before its creditor forced the store to close in October.

The sudden shutdown left hundreds of FWS customers with unfilled orders for merchandise on which they had made advance payments.

Schneiderman's office estimated that FWS had about 700 open orders at the time of its closing and that customers had made advance payments of more than $420,000 on those orders.

Some customers since have been able to obtain their merchandise, while others have been able to stop payments that were made by credit card, the attorney general said. Schneiderman said his office's investigation found that FWS required customers to make advance payments on orders they placed, but the retailer did not put those payments in a separate account. Instead, FWS spent the money.

The attorney general also is seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent FWS' owners from transferring any funds or destroying any business records.?

email: ?drobinson@buffnews.com