Fat Sound Guitars and Musical Company, along with its owner Stuart Vries Carter Jr., have been permanently banned from doing business by a Wake County judge, the state announced Tuesday.
The order from Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens came after the N.C. Attorney General's office sued Carter and Fat Sound on behalf of 18 people who filed complaints with the state, according to a news release. In many cases, the customers said they paid money for merchandise at the store on Chapel Hill Road or online but never received it, according to the release.
Attorney General Roy Cooper's office said in the release that the state is working to collect the $38,631 owed to customers "as well as restoration of all consumer property and a cancellation of all contracts remaining."
Carter and Fat Sounds also must pay nearly $2.8 million in restitution to the 18 people who filed complaints. The judge ordered payments of $5,000 per month, per violation, in the long-running case, according to the order.
According to the state, Fat Sounds sometimes accepted money from customers but wouldn't order the merchandise. On 11 other occasions, the company failed to notify customers of delivery delays or sold musical equipment on behalf of a customer but allegedly never paid the seller, according to court documents.
"Be careful about paying a large amount upfront," Cooper said. "If you must pay in advance, consider using a credit card for extra protection in case something goes wrong and you don't get what you paid for."
Carter couldn't be reached for comment. A phone number listed for the company is disconnected, and its website no longer exists.
Neither Carter nor his business ever responded to the state's legal complaints, court records show.
The state's complaint also notes that customers often had trouble getting in contact with Carter regarding their concerns. Court documents show Carter listed at three addresses: at the Cary location as well as addresses in Selma and Wilmington.
Fat Sound was founded in 1993 and used to have a positive, national reputation. Carter took over in 1998 or 1999, corporate filings show.
Most of the 18 people who filed complaints were from out of state, and Internet music forums and business review sites are filled with positive comments from the years leading up to 2012.
The business closed that year, and Cooper's office said the complaints started in November, 2012.
Court records show the state originally filed its legal case against Carter and Fat Sounds in February 2013, but neither defendant ever answered the complaint.