(WSVN) - They had three vintage violins that they brought to a shop in Miami to be sold, but instead they got strung along. The couple never got the cash and never saw the instruments again, and when Help Me Howard tried to get the store owner to return the violins or pay for them, they were met with an ending they have never encountered. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When you meet the Millers, you quickly notice they are happy. The reason? Each other.
June Miller, no violins — no money: “I think we really love each other, and I look at him, and I think he is the best person in the world.”
But they didn’t call us to talk about happiness. It was the three vintage violins that June’s late father had left her.
June Miller: “And they needed some repair. My father hadn’t played them in a while.”
They took them to Duffy’s Violin Store in Miami to be refurbished. June could not have been any happier.
June Miller: “And the man that repaired them in the shop even played them for me. They were beautiful.”
A couple of years later, June decided to sell the violins. Duffy’s offered to do it for her.
June Miller: “She said she had clients all over the world.”
That was in February 2017. Things soon got off key.
June Miller: “I kept calling every month, and she kept telling me, ‘No, I’ll sell them.'”
After a few months, John got involved.
John Miller, feels ripped off: “She was switching her story from selling the violins to the violins being in storage to well, sometimes we exchange them.”
Finally in September 2018, the Millers went to the store, where the owner Barbara Duffy told them she had sold their violins and didn’t have the $7,300 she owed them.
June Miller: “She said, ‘I would like to pay you.'”
Duffy drew up paperwork to pay June $1,000 a month. Both women signed it.
June Miller: “A few weeks went by, and I didn’t get a check in the mail.”
We went to the violin store in December. It was closed.
Online, we found customers complaining they could not get their violins back.
At least two people sued Barbara Lynn Duffy after they were not paid for their violins. Both got judgments against Duffy.
And more calls came into Help Me Howard line from people asking us about their violins left at Duffy’s.
Caller: “Nobody’s been able to get their instrument, and I don’t know what to do. I have one there. A friend of mine has two.”
I went by Barbara Duffy’s house. Someone was there but would not come to the door.
Later, a family friend told 7News Barbara Duffy was sick, so we left her alone.
And back at the Millers, not a single check ever arrived to pay the $7,300 for the violins.
June Miller: “I am very surprised.”
John Miller: “I’m shocked.”
June Miller: “She is the sweetest person.”
Then in late March, 7News was told Barbara Duffy had passed away.
John Miller: “It’s sad that she passed, but it’s also very sad that she passed leaving people behind that she owed money to or violins.”
She passed away, but now her estate may have the violins and the money owed to people like the Millers.
John Miller: “What do we do now? What do the other people do?”
Well Howard, what do they do?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “This is clearly a breach of contract, but getting money from the estate of the person that owned the business after they died can be tricky but possible. If there is no money left in the corporation, you have to do what is called ‘Piercing the Corporate Veil’ to get to the personal assets of the estate of the deceased owner. You do that by filing a claim in probate court.”
John Miller: “Not a dime. That’s not right.”
The Millers thought they would be paid for their violins by now. It’s not playing out that way at all.
June Miller: “I guess file in probate if we can to see if we can recoup any of the money because I do believe the violins are gone.”
And where are the violins that were in the store when they closed?
7News tracked down one employee who won’t talk to us.
If you know where those violins are, we know some people who would love to get them back.
Feel like someone is stringing you along? Don’t let them fiddle with you. Pitch it our way. Hopefully when we start playing, it will be music to your ears.
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