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Massachusetts man ordered to repay over $100,000 to ND community movie theaters

Walsh County Press of Park River, North Dakota

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BISMARCK, ND — A Massachusetts man who took advantage of small community movie theaters across North Dakota has been ordered to repay over $100,000, announced Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

On October 29, 2015, the Attorney General's Consumer Protection division obtained a Judgment against Brian Vita of Peabody, Massachusetts, for engaging in violations of the North Dakota Consumer Fraud Law. Vita is the sole owner of Cinema Service and Supply, LLC, and sold digital equipment and parts to movie theaters.

"Mr. Vita took advantage of our small community theaters and he will be accountable," Stenehjem said. "These small nonprofit organizations fight for every dollar possible to provide movie entertainment options for their local citizens, and his actions are very damaging. When Vita failed to meet his commitments, these organizations were devastated and were scrambling to try and replace the funding and continue their operations."

Vita took advanced payments from the Save Our Strand Foundation in Grafton, the Lyric Theatre in Park River, and Meadowlark Art Council in Crosby, promising to supply digital movie equipment and projectors. Vita did not disclose that he was experiencing financial difficulties, and continued to accept payments even after he filed bankruptcy under his business name and the IRS had frozen his business accounts. The Consumer Protection investigators attempted to work with Vita for months but he stalled them, refusing to issue refunds or agree to a repayment plan. The investigators ultimately determined that Vita had diverted the advance payments to pay for other business expenses and that he had no remaining business assets.

Stenehjem directed the investigators to initiate a consumer fraud legal action and the court imposed a ban preventing Vita from operating in North Dakota for at least five years and until all monies arc repaid to the victims. Vita owes $47,000 to Save Our Strand Foundation, $28,000 to Lyric Theatre, and $27,000 to Meadowlark, and has been ordered by the court to pay these refunds. Stenehjem praised the staffof the Save our Strand Foundation for working so closely with his office to address the fraudulent conduct. "Their cooperation and information was very helpful in bringing our legal action," Stenehjem said.

According to Parrell Grossman, director of the consumer protection division, Vita does not appear to have assets to pay the restitution and likely will never be allowed to work in North Dakota again.

"Vita took advanced payments from the Save Our Strand Foundation in Grafton, the Lyric Theatre in Park River, and Meadowlark Art Council in Crosby, promising to supply digital movie equipment and projectors. Vita did not disclose that he was experiencing financial difficulties, and continued to accept payments even after he filed bankruptcy under his business name and the IRS had frozen his business accounts.



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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015



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