Send Ben: Avenues Lighting owner owes creditors more than $3 million

Customers left in the dark

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax is investigating the owner of a popular lighting store that has gone bankrupt and left customers in the dark.

Action News Jax investigator Ben Becker tracked down the owner Tony Brown is shedding light on why the store’s owner Tony Brown shut it down.

Action New Jax first showed you on Feb. 12 when dozens of people, who claimed to be out thousands of dollars, showed up at Avenues Lighting demanding their merchandise or their money. It’s after the store had unexpectedly closed for days.

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Customers would learn later that it had entered bankruptcy.

Becker went to Brown’s home looking for answers.

Brown shut his door on Becker but told him through the closed door he was forced into an involuntary bankruptcy by the previous owners.

Becker spoke to Mark Blanchard, who sold brown the business 18 months ago. He said he did not take legal action but is owed a substantial amount of money by Brown.

Becker called Brown’s attorney, who said it was Brown who initiated what is called an “assignment for the benefit of creditors” which is actually more a voluntary bankruptcy where Brown made the choice than an involuntary one where creditors would initiate the proceedings.

Action News Jax learned from court record Brown owes creditors nearly $3.7 million.

Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson said customers have few options to get their money back unless they can prove criminal intent.

"If all the assets are gone and it's held under a corporation what are you going to recover? And the answer is nothing but aggravation," Carson said.

As for Brown, he said there’s nothing more he can or will do.

"What do you say to the people who want their money back?” Becker asked Brown.

“I don’t blame 'em but it’s out of my control," Brown said.

There is some good news: Blanchard said he is considering reopening the business as soon as April and hopes to help his old customers get what they paid for.