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Newbury Park Couple : D.A. Investigates Pair in Alleged Fraud and Theft

March 30, 1989|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

A Newbury Park couple convicted of consumer fraud in Los Angeles three years ago are under investigation by the Ventura County district attorney's office for alleged theft and false representation in operating a custom-door business called Universal Woodworking, authorities said.

"A lot of complaints were made to our office and . . . they were not insignificant complaints," said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Gregory W. Brose, who is in charge of consumer fraud prosecutions. He said his office is deciding whether to file criminal charges.

Also investigating more than two dozen complaints from Ventura County residents is the Los Angeles city attorney's office, which contends that the alleged frauds constitute a violation of the couple's probation.

Sue L. Frauens, supervising attorney for the consumer protection section of the Los Angeles city attorney's office, maintains that Julie and Ronald Huber have allegedly bilked their Ventura County customers out of at least $30,000.

She said the complaints are identical to those that led to the Hubers' conviction in Los Angeles.

The Ventura County complaints have already prompted a Los Angeles judge to revoke the Hubers' probation. On April 24, he is to decide whether the alleged violations are serious enough to send the Hubers back to jail.

Meanwhile, they have each posted $25,000 bail and, as of Tuesday, could be reached at Universal Woodworking, where they continue to do business.

Sentenced in '86

Julie and Ronald Huber were sentenced in April, 1986, to 165 days and 150 days, respectively, for violating consumer fraud laws and were placed on three years probation, Frauens said.

At the time of their conviction, the Hubers operated a retail hardware and custom door store in Woodland Hills called Creative Door and Sash. Around that time, the couple also started Universal Woodworking and opened offices in Simi Valley and Newbury Park.

Frauens said the Hubers "violated numerous terms and conditions of probation by engaging in false and deceptive advertising" in Ventura County. The complaints included misrepresentation, shoddy workmanship, delivery of inferior goods and non-delivery of purchased goods, she said.

In a brief interview, Julie Huber denied any wrongdoing and said Universal Woodworking is owned by her 21-year-old daughter, Jolie Huber. "Ninety percent of the stuff we sell is from other manufacturers," she said. Customers "inspect it before they pay for it, and if there's a problem at that time, they don't accept it."

Mary C. Harris of Thousand Oaks disagrees.

Harris is a former customer of the Hubers who won a $1,500 settlement against them in Ventura County Small Claims Court two years ago.

She also is a woman who has lived through a lot of pain and hoped, somewhat optimistically perhaps, that redecorating her house would help her recover from a great loss.

Harris says she wanted to redecorate because she thought that it would help her get over the death of her 20-year-old son Brian, who had lived at home until 1985, when he was brutally slain along with his girlfriend after being abducted near UCLA.

Couple Abducted

A Cal State Northridge sophomore, Brian had been walking his 19-year-old girlfriend, Michelle A. Boyd, back to her apartment at UCLA when four young men from South-Central Los Angeles kidnaped the college sweethearts, took them to a secluded field off Mulholland Drive in the Santa Monica Mountains and shot them both in the back of the head.

Donald Bennett, 23, and Damon L. Redmond, 22, were sentenced to 18 years to life for their roles in the killings. The trial of 26-year-old Stanley B. Davis, the alleged triggerman, is pending. The fourth man, DeAndre Brown, was given immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony.

In February, 1987, Mary Harris said, she paid Universal Woodworking more than $6,000 to purchase and install fancy oak doors, paneling and side moldings.

Harris asserts that part of her order was never delivered. The doors that did arrive were of inferior quality--cheap pine coated with an oak veneer and hollow inside, she said. Others were so poorly installed that a contractor brought in to fix the damage refused the work for fear of incurring liabilities, Harris said.

She is returning to court next month because she claims that the Hubers have paid only $750 of the court-ordered judgment against them.

'Horrible Nightmare'

"The whole point in doing this was to change the house where we had lived, and it turned into a horrible nightmare. Our house was torn up from one end to the other. We got no satisfaction from them whatsoever. They're . . . making life miserable for a lot of people," Harris said.

In 1986, Julie Huber pleaded no contest to charges that she stole money from a customer by delivering doors that were not oak, as the customer required, by keeping the payment and by failing to provide accessory hardware as ordered, according to a statement from the Los Angeles city attorney's office.

Huber also admitted failing to pay the state more than $10,000 in sales taxes collected in 1984 and 1985, the statement said.

Ronald Huber pleaded no contest to charges of false advertising, aiding and abetting his wife in fraudulent business dealings, and writing bad checks to suppliers of a firm he ran in 1984.

The court also ordered the Hubers to pay almost $12,000 in fines and penalties and to reimburse victims for their losses.

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