Four Albany furniture stores have been accused of illegal business practices, including selling bedbug-infested mattresses to clients of the Department of Social Services, Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today announced today.
A series of lawsuits filed against Seraj Enterprises, DBA 99 Cents and More, of 141 S. Pearl St. and two other firms alleges that the companies illegally substituted household items included on vouchers provided by DSS.
The department provides vouchers to clients who need household items. They can be redeemed at businesses that sign a contract with the county and agree to specific guidelines and prices for items provided.
In two cases, DSS clients reported that their children were bitten by bed bugs from mattresses sold by 99 Cents and More. The infestation allegedly forced two clients to vacate their apartments.
Albany County hired a pest control firm that confirmed the presence of bedbugs and found evidence that the mattresses were unsanitary, defective and of poor quality.
McCoy also announced that the county has filed suit against two other vendors: AAA Furniture Outlet, 73 Central Ave. and City Discount Furniture, 278 Central Ave., alleging that they violated their contracts by illegally swapping household items listed by DSS. The suit also claims that items paid for by the county were not delivered, or were broken or dirty when delivered.
Since the county investigation began last year, there have reportedly been at least 10 instances of illegal swaps that took place. In several of those cases, the vendor substituted less expensive items and kept money it was not entitled to, which cost the county nearly $3,000. The county is seeking to recover those damages and an additional $25,000 in punitive damages from each vendor. In addition, the county is asking that the court order a pest inspection at 99 Cents and More.
McCoy also announced a change in policy as a result of this case. DSS vendors will now only be able to provide clients with new mattresses.
The county is asking clients to check the tags on their mattresses and to call their caseworkers if there are questions.