WAYNE, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Representatives for a carnival ride company that was sued last week by the West Virginia Attorney General's Office for unfair sales practices failed to appear Tuesday in Wayne Circuit Court.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Stonestreet said Wednesday his office sent summons to nine different addresses for All American Rides and Shows.
"So I'm pretty sure they knew about it," he said.
Even if the company's owner, Tony Best, had shown up, Stonestreet said he's not so sure it would've made a difference.
Wayne Circuit Judge James H. Young granted the attorney general's request for a preliminary injunction, preventing the company from operating in the state.
Young also granted the office's prejudgment attachment, which means it can now attach property prior to any final adjudication.
"Mostly because they're a flight risk and a non-resident," Stonestreet said of the company, which is based in Lawrenceburg, Ky.
"By all appearances, those are the only ways we can get some restitution for the folks in Wayne County. This way we can put a lien on any property we might find, or possibly even seize it."
Last week, Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed a lawsuit against All American Rides and Shows for unlawful, deceptive and unfair sales practices in operating an amusement and carnival ride business.
McGraw's suit, filed Aug. 14 in Wayne Circuit Court, alleges that the company and Best entered into a contract in March with Bruce Finely and the Wayne County Fair Board.
Under that contract's term, Best agreed to provide 10 carnival rides and a cotton candy trailer in exchange for $15,000.
After accepting a $5,000 payment up front, Best did not honor the agreement and failed to provide any of the amusement rides or services promised, McGraw's suit alleges.
As a result of the company's failure to deliver the promised amusement rides, the Wayne County Fair, held July 30-Aug. 6, suffered dramatically low attendance this year, McGraw said.
"This company not only broke the law but the hearts of hundreds of children hoping to enjoy the final days of summer at their local county fair," the attorney general said in a statement.
In West Virginia, carnival and amusement operations must obtain proper permits from the Safety Section of the state Division of Labor. Proof of insurance or a bond, as well as a business registration certificate, also are required.
All American Rides and Shows failed to satisfy any of those legal requirements, the Attorney General's Office alleges.
Jennifer Burgess, director of the Division of Labor's Safety Section, said permits to operate expire each year on Dec. 31.
All American Rides and Shows, she said, have not had permits since Dec. 31, 2010 and the company's rides were last inspected in August 2010.
The division's safety section surveys all known events, fairs and festivals each year for event dates and the names of any amusement ride companies they plan to use.
Burgess said the Wayne County Fair Board responded to that survey, saying All American Fairs and Shows was scheduled to play this year's fair.
"The company failed to register with us, as required, for that event but also did not show for the fair," she said.
The Attorney General's Office then alerted the labor division that the company was scheduled to play the Huntington Rib & Music Fest, held Aug. 11-14, Burgess said.
The labor division subsequently issued cease and desist orders on Aug. 11 on the rides that were set up at the Huntington festival, she said.
That's when the Attorney General's Office took over, filing suit against the company.
Stonestreet said the next step is to get a permanent injunction and for his office to hunt down any of the company's or Best's property and put a lien on it or try to seize it.
He said the Attorney General's Office will do its best to help the Wayne County Fair Board recoup the money it lost.
"It's difficult when you have a non-resident of a foreign corporation who's just sort of transient," Stonestreet said.
Best, he said, has multiple tax liens against him, both federal and state. Hence another reason for the state's prejudgment attachment.
"We've found bank accounts, but they all had negative balances," he said.
And West Virginia isn't the first state Best has struck. "This guy has taken thousands from other states," Stonestreet said, including close to $30,000 in Montana and $10,000 in Indiana.
"He's done this all over the place," he said.
Prior to the state's lawsuit, All American Rides and Shows also was slated to provide rides at the Lincoln and Kanawha county fairs next month, Stonestreet said.
Fortunately, neither had paid any money to Best yet, he said.
"They're just defrauding people," Stonestreet said of the company.