Business

JoCo couple sue for fraud over $28,000 rug. Knotty Rug calls them ‘bullies’

Darrel Wingo, owner of the Knotty Rug, is shown in this 2013 photo when the company opened a store on the Country Club Plaza.
Darrel Wingo, owner of the Knotty Rug, is shown in this 2013 photo when the company opened a store on the Country Club Plaza. The Kansas City Star

Maranatha and David Christie, an area real estate developer, have a knotty problem with the Knotty Rug Co. — a $28,000 problem.

The Johnson County couple spent that amount on an antique Persian rug a few days before Christmas in 2014, according to a lawsuit they filed last week in Johnson County District Court. They were later told by an appraiser, the suit said, that the rug wasn’t an antique, might not be Persian and “may have been altered from its original condition to appear older.”

The Christies suit names Knotty Rug, its owner Darrel Wingo and employee Frank Ovji as defendants. They sued even though the store agreed to buy back the Persian rug and two others for nearly $39,000.

Wingo said he has made no payments to the couple and called them “bullies” for the way they got the agreement to buy back the rugs.

“It’s a convoluted mess,” said Wingo, who had not seen the couple’s lawsuit but said they had been threatening to file one.

Wingo said he stands by the rugs and their prices, adding that the couple did not complain until three years after the purchases. He said Knotty Rug spent considerable time and effort to make some repairs to the Persian rug but did not collect more than the $28,000 the couple paid.

Also, he complained about an incident this spring when Maranatha Christie came into the store.

She brought with her an agreement requiring Knotty Rug to buy back the rugs and would not leave until he signed it, Wingo said. He said she was being disruptive and that a “good client” was expected at the store soon. He signed, though he said he has made no payment to the couple.

“If I had been thinking clearly, I’d have called the police and had her escorted out of my store,” Wingo said.

The lawsuit tells a different version.

It said Maranatha Christie “confronted” Knotty Rug, Ovji and Wingo at the store on April 26. It said she was accused of misappropriate conduct herself, including a comment about what she was “trying to pull.” Knotty Rug also said, according to the lawsuit, that it didn’t know everything, “we take our vendor’s words.”

As she was leaving the store, the suit said, Wingo asked her, “please, if you ever decide you want more rugs, go somewhere else.”

Wingo — who was a specialty paint contractor — started Knotty Rug in 2003 after a customer asked for help finding a rug. Knotty Rug, at 4510 State Line Road in Kansas City, Kan., also briefly operated a store on the Country Club Plaza.

According to descriptions in the lawsuit, Knotty Rug had “made misrepresentations” about 14 rugs they purchased for $39,258.75 in September 2014, plus the Persian rug purchased that December.

Wingo, in addition to standing by the store’s practices, denied the couple had spent that much money.

At the store, the lawsuit said, Knotty Rug employees failed even to “flip the Persian Rug over to show the Christies the knotting” despite the company’s slogan “The Knottier the Better.”

Throughout the store’s dealings with the Christies, the purported value and price of the Persian rug kept changing, according to the lawsuit. It said the rug carried a $22,000 price tag originally though the couple paid $28,000.

Upon delivery on Dec. 23, 2014, the rug had a “sales price” of $35,000, the suit said. When asked why the price had gone up, according to the lawsuit, “Knotty Rug and its agents” said the lower price had been a mistake. The company had “discovered” that this rug was 150 years old, a Heriz, very rare and that much more valuable.

The Christies also were told the rug was more valuable because it was so worn, contrary to what they learned later, the suit said.

More recently, the suit claims, the Knotty Rug’s Ovji texted the couple that a rug like theirs had sold at auction for $95,000 in Germany. He never provided an online link to support the claim, it said.

Earlier this year, the suit said, the Knotty Rug further told the couple their rug would bring up to $150,000 in New York and that they were lucky to find such a “treasure.”

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Mark Davis writes about business for The Kansas City Star with attention to Sprint, investing, the economy and scams. He has been a winner and finalist in national competitions held by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.

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