Jim Boyle Aug. 5, 2014, 6:43am


A Chester County woman says that employees at a Delaware HH Gregg failed to register

her payment for items purchased at the electronic retail store, ultimately resulting in her humiliating arrest by Delaware State Police, according to a defamation suit filed at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Jennifer Washco, of West Chester, Pa., seeks damages in excess of $50,000 on two counts against the Indiana-based business and one count of violating Federal Trade Practices Act against Fiserv, a Wisconsin-based debt collection agency.

On Oct. 27, 2013, Washco traveled to the Wilmington, Del., store and purchased more than $8,000 in furniture and televisions, the complaint says. When Washco offered to pay by check, a store representative phoned her bank and received assurances that she had sufficient funds. However, the claim says, the bank refused to honor the check without Washco's knowledge.

The items were delivered to Washco's home on Nov. 1, 2013, but in December she received a phone call from Fiserv, which said she still owed money for the purchase. The suit says that on Dec. 12, 2013, Washco mailed a check for the full amount, plus $40 for the declined check. The new check cleared on Dec. 19, 2013, according to the complaint, but the next day a store employee phoned the Delaware State Police.

Washco says the employee made false statements to the police, saying that she called the plaintiff on several occasions to set up a payment plan and that Washco refused to return the items she purchased.

A warrant had been issued for Washco's arrest, and a state officer called to request that she turn herself in for processing. Washco immediately called HH Gregg, according to the suit, and spoke to an asset protection manager who assured her that the check she issued on Dec. 12 had been paid in full and that HH Gregg would issue a dismissal if needed.

That dismissal never happened, the suit says, and the Delaware police ordered the local officers to arrest Washco at her home. According to the complaint, she had been eating breakfast when the police arrived and was denied an opportunity to change out of her pajamas. She also claims that the police called her ex-husband and informed him of the arrest as further embarrassment to Washco.

The arrest forced Washco to pay for defense counsel and discontinue her job search. The newly divorced Washco was in the middle of transitioning from homemaker to independent wage earner, the complaint says, and the ordeal put a serious strain on her efforts. The charges were ultimately dismissed as frivolous by the Delaware Attorney General's office, the suit says.

Washco is represented by attorneys Stephen Rhoads and John Larkin of Gawthrop Greenwood, PC, in West Chester.

The case ID number is 140602580.

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