Judge tells hot tub dealer to pay up

April 6, 2012 8:26:23 PM PDT
Here's a follow-up now to a 7 On Your Side investigation. Our reports led to the conviction of an East Bay spa dealer who took thousands of dollars from customers, but never delivered their hot tubs. On Friday the dealer was back in court.

Jim Gerard has served nine months in jail and was ordered to repay more than $134,000 to 20 of his customers. That was two years ago, but customers who waited for their spas are now waiting for their money, and on Friday a judge told Gerard to pay up.

The story began with Sally and Milton Hughes of San Lorenzo. They paid Gerard $6,800 cash for a hot tub and they never got it.

"Every night when it's cold I think, 'Well, let's go in the spa now. Whoops! No, we don't have one,'" said Sally.

"I wanted relief from my body aches. I have arthritis," said Peggy McGregory.

We told you about McGregory of Union City who paid Gerard $6,000 for a hot tub that never came. Jan and Doug Graham of Castro Valley paid $7,000, they didn't get their spa either.

I confronted Jim Gerard back when we first started getting complaints.

Finney: They say that you took their money and they don't have their hot tub.
Gerard: OK, Well I did not take their money and not deliver their hot tub. It's in the works right now.

Of course, that didn't happen. 7 On Your Side received another 16 complaints from customers who paid thousands and got nothing but Gerard's signature rubber duck and bath scents.

Finney: Are you shutting down? It's beginning to look a little empty in here.
Gerard: No, we're not shutting down.

Well Gerard's dealership actually did shut down. He was later arrested, 20 victims stepped forward, and he pleaded guilty to grand theft.

"Thanks to 7 On Your Side, they found us," said Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Ken Ryken.

Ryken says those victims came forward because of our reports.

"We ended up with 20 victims and $134,000 in restitution," said Ryken.

Gerard served nine months in jail and was ordered to repay customers all $134,000 he took from his customers. However, two years later, Gerard has paid only $1,950 and that money is divided among all 20 victims -- that's only about $100 each.

"One of the things we try and do is collect as much for those victims as we can," said Ryken.

Ryken is in charge collecting restitution for victims and Alameda is one of only two counties in California that has a court and a district attorney assigned just to make sure victims get paid. But getting $134,000 from Gerard has proved to be as hard as getting one of his hot tubs.

"Mr. Gerard is 64 years old, he's disclosed to the court that he's unemployed," said Ryken.

Gerard claims he doesn't have that kind of money.

"I had received nothing. Not one penny," said Sally Hughes.

Neither did Jan and Doug, or McGregory, or many others who lost money to Gerard. We asked Ryken about this and it turns out the county didn't have addresses for those victims. He straightened that out. And this week Sally and Milton got their first check-- it's only $100, but it's a little piece of justice.

"Anything we get from him is going to be good, you know, it's better than nothing," said Hughes.

"Jim Gerard, if you're watching this, you only owe me 68 more checks," said Hughes.

Before his court hearing Friday, Gerard made another payment of $500 in restitution, bringing the total to $2,450. Gerard was ordered to make payments of at least $100 a month or he'll be sent back to jail in August.


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