COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Springs Police Department is investigating Deidre Peak, the owner of Sweet Addict Bakery and Crafted Colorado, for allegedly owing thousands of dollars to customers, vendors, and employees.
Melissa Smith is one of the customers affected. She bought a $48 cooking class through Sweet Addict Bakery only to show up at the store and find it closed. Smith said she was never told the class was canceled and never received a refund, despite multiple attempts to contact Peak.
According to its website, Sweet Addict Bakery sold treats as well as hosted cooking classes. Peak’s other store, Crafted Colorado on 327 N. Tejon Street, sold homemade crafts, typically made by local vendors.
Many vendors who sold products at Crafted Colorado said they are owed money for months worth of sales.
Rhonda Painter sold jewelry at Crafted Colorado. She said Peak owes her $385 in sales.
Jane Hittle also sold jewelry at the store. She recently filed a civil lawsuit against Crafted Colorado and Sweet Addict Bakery, claiming Peak owes her $904.03 for sales in December and January, as well as court fees.
“To lose that money, it's never a good thing when you have a family to support,” Hittle said. “Lots of hours were put into making that handmade jewelry.”
Lisa Payne, the owner of Like No Otter Design, sold engraved products at Peak’s store. According to her contract, she was supposed to be paid on the fifth of every month. She said Peak broke that contract.
“I've been there since August,” Payne said. “I didn’t receive my first payout until mid-November.”
The potential fraud case is now the center of a Colorado Springs Police Department investigation. The agency is asking anyone who believes they are owed money by Peak to contact the financial crimes unit.
“The sheer volume of citizens that have made purchases to services that they haven't received so far, it's a large amount for this case and that is kind of unusual for a fraud case,” said Ljiljana Chase, the lead financial crime officer on the case.
CSPD said it has been in communication with Peak. But the same can’t be said for vendors or customers.
“There's no contact there,” Smith said. “You call and call and call. Nobody answers. The voicemail is false. You can't even leave a message. Email response is hit or miss.”
“I would send emails to her inquiring about the numbers and she would never respond,” Painter said. “Just totally ignored all emails.”
13 Investigates went to the store locations and also couldn’t find her. We reached out to her by email and she replied saying:
“I have been absent for the last several weeks seeking in-patient treatment for mental health concerns. I am just now getting back into work and have processed several hundred payouts and refund requests that have accumulated in my absence and will continue to catch up on any other requests as they arise.”
“What you have here is a series of circumstances that make me look bad. Without the bigger picture and evidence presented, I can see how folks are disgruntled. However, I have continued to process requests, refunds, and correspondence as I've been able.”
She did not respond to a request for an interview.
Ten days after that email, vendors and customers said they have still not been paid for past sales or canceled classes.
One of Peak's landlords, Jennifer Farnes, said she should have seen the writing on the wall, as Peak was late on rent nearly every month. In fact, a rent notice was placed on the Tejon location at the end of February, stating Peak owed $8,500 in back rent.
Peak had already begun to consolidate locations. She closed both the Stetson Hills and Old Colorado City locations and was planning on a grand re-opening for Sweet Addict Bakery inside Crafted Colorado on Tejon Street at the beginning of March.
Meanwhile, Peak was still selling cooking classes on the Sweet Addict Bakery website at these closed locations until only a couple of days ago.
Once vendors realized the stores were closed many tried to retrieve their products only to find the doors locked and Peak nowhere to be found. Marissa Allen only found out about the closed store Thursday and stopped by to pack up her soaps she sells.
On the way out the door she told 13 Investigates she couldn't find $300 worth of products.
"I'm the face of my brand," Allen said. "I am my brand. It's a one person thing, so I've made it with my own hands. Then to have it stolen or disappear is kind of disappointing."
This is the story for many of the other vendors, who can't find some of their handmade items.
"You rely on this and then it's just stolen from you," Payne said. "To be frank with you at this point, I've moved from saying it's mismanaged to saying it's stolen."
Even employees are owed money. Jeanette Schmidt was a manager at Crafted Colorado. She still hasn't been paid $600 worth of work during the holidays.
"You probably worked well over 40-hour weeks at or just above minimum wage, trying to keep it open so that all of us would have the opportunity to have our Christmas sales," Payne said. "She worked herself to the bone and it was abuse. You still haven't even been paid for it."
Vendors, who still haven't recouped lost funds, have had to turn to other routes to make up for the loss.
"I used to look to that money to supplement my income, and I've had to pick up extra shifts at work to level that out," said Allie Miezin, a vendor.
The Colorado Springs Police Department's investigation will determine if there is fraud case. Chase, the lead officer, said the breach of contract against vendors is likely a civil matter, but the customers not being refunded for a service they didn't receive could be criminal.
Any civil cases will have to be fought in court. But criminal cases could lead to monetary restitution for customers.
So far, Chase said the the number of reports for the case is more than usual.
"The sheer volume of citizens that have made purchases for services that they haven't received so far, it's an unusual amount, it's is a large amount for a fraud case," Chase said.
The CSPD is asking anyone who believes they are owed money by Deidre Peak to fill out this survey.
The vendors and customers believe the non-payments are intentional.
"I think this started out as mismanagement, which they tried to fix that by robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Goody Goodwin, the former co-owner of Crafted Colorado. "Then that kind of moved it to, 'Hey, let me get this, let me pay this off.' Eventually it did turn into theft."
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