WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has filed a lawsuit against a local dance studio, claiming the studio owner’s fraudulent actions violate the state’s deceptive trade practices act.
In the weeks leading up to the lawsuit, the Attorney General’s office received 20 written complaints against Triple Threat Performing Arts Center in Warwick. The complaints allege that the owner, Marlaina Rapoza, took money from customers for certain dance competitions but “never informed her customers that their children would not be allowed to participate.”
Barbara Moses, whose child dances at the studio, said Rapoza claimed a competition that they paid for was canceled.
“There was another competition that we didn’t get in, she said it was canceled actually,” said Moses. “I called them myself and they said ‘no it wasn’t canceled, your studio just didn’t pay.’”
Other complaints allege that Rapoza’s checks to the consumers for reimbursement for canceled dance competitions and other services were returned due to insufficient funds.
The owner of Elite Dance Challenge, Sandra Walsh, claims that Triple Threat Performing Arts Center performed at one of her competitions in March, but the $6,000 check that Rapoza gave her was returned by the bank.
She filed a complaint with Rhode Island State Police.
“I have a lot of employees that have to be paid, I have judges, I have staff and that’s a lot of money to be out,” said Walsh.
Coincidentally, Abby Lee Miller, the star of reality TV show Dance Moms, recently shot an episode of her new show Dance Studio Rescue at Triple Threat Performing Arts Center. At the end of that episode, the studio appeared to be successfully saved, but the reality is anything but.
“This lawsuit is serious,” said Tammy Miller of the RI Attorney General Consumer Affairs Unit. “Customers paid for services that they did not receive, and that is a violation of the deceptive trade practices act in Rhode Island.”
Call 12 for Action made several attempts to reach Rapoza, who has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit. The phone at Triple Threat Performing Arts Center has been disconnected, emails went unanswered, and her cell phone no longer accepts messages.