An owner of a defunct gun shop is suing her three partners, alleging fraud.
According to her complaint, filed Dec. 16 in state Supreme Court in Montgomery County, Kelly Jones invested more than $250,000 over several years into Special Arms on Route 30 in Perth and a connected store in Rensselaer before being forced out of the business by fellow owners Richard Christiano, Mark LaViolette and Louis Brian Oleson.
Jones said she began working for Oleson at his store, Guns Inc., in Rensselaer in 2008. During her time at Guns Inc. she invested $100,000 for a 50-percent share in the store, which she never received.
Oleson and LaViolette also owned Special Arms, then located in Schenectady. When they decided to move the shop to Perth in 2010, Oleson asked Jones to work at the new location.
Oleson used his “business acumen” to talk her into buying out his 50 percent share in Special Arms with another $100,000, leading her to believe the store was doing better than it was.
Later, in the summer of 2011, after Jones bought in, LaViolette sold much of his share of Special Arms to Christiano, at which point she alleges things started to fall apart. She and “LaViolette and Christiano were in a constant state of turmoil, arguing about virtually every business decision,” which made the store impossible to run.
The business contract between the three owners set up a structure by which decisions like how to keep the books and whether to hire family members were made by a majority vote. Christiano allegedly did not adhere to that structure, hiring his girlfriend, his father, his father’s girlfriend and his brother without consulting Jones.
From Christiano’s buy-in onward, she claims he and LaViolette attempted to close her out of the business, not allowing her to see the books, keeping her off the store checking account and refusing to add her name to Special Arms’ federal firearms license, which is necessary for a gun shop to operate.
In September 2011, LaViolette and Christiano attempted to sue Jones, saying she stole money and firearms from the store. After that, they changed the locks.
Eventually, she claims, LaViolette threatened her into leaving. He held the store’s federal license and said he would remove it if she returned to the store. Without the license, Special Arms could not have legally operated and would have had to shut down immediately, leaving Jones with no return on her investment, so she left.
The store closed in October 2012. Jones didn’t know until she drove past one day and saw an inventory reduction sale sign.
Jones is seeking at least $250,000 from her past business partners, saying the liquidation of Special Arms was done “in such bad faith [and] malice” that she’s entitled to damages.