Responding to a complaint from bowlers who say they were cheated out of $25,000 in prize money, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office confirmed Friday that it is conducting a preliminary investigation of the Brunswick Corp. and a league it sponsored at Brunswick Granada Lanes earlier this year.
A group representing 88 bowlers, many of whom reside in the Valley, are considering a class-action suit against Brunswick. The bowlers allege that Brunswick advertised a $25,000 bonus in prize money for the Granada Lanes 790 Invitational league but withdrew the bonus late in the season because it lost its sponsor.
"We're looking into it," said Dolores Taylor, a deputy district attorney in the Consumer Protection Division. "But we can't discuss cases that haven't gone to court."
The bowlers say they are waiting to see whether fraud charges are brought before filing a class-action suit against the company.
The bowlers, who invested more than $900 each in fees, say the bonus money was the sole reason many of them joined the high-stakes league, which lasted 26 weeks and concluded in May.
"We were the told the money was secured in a bank account before the league started last September," said Rick Herrmann of Valencia, a league member. "It is our contention that Granada Lanes and Brunswick must accept full responsibility."
Warren Flanigan, Brunswick regional vice president, who declined comment when the bowlers first threatened a suit in May, was unavailable Friday.
In a separate but related action, Mike Schenck of Simi Valley, a former Brunswick employee and one of the 88 league members, learned Friday that he won a small-claims suit against Brunswick but was awarded only a fraction of the money he sought. In a July 20 hearing in Van Nuys, he had filed for $2,900 but was awarded $115 by Municipal Court Judge Kirkland Nyby.
"The bottom line is I won," Schenck said. "Now, a bunch of (other bowlers) are going to file. Hopefully, everybody else can find out what they need to prove and get what they deserve in an award."