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Ruby Dominguez says she would have been more wary if she had known some of Jeunette's history when she began talking to him about saving her store.
Jeunette, who says he dabbled in music himself as a younger man and played in his own band before his daughter was born, was taking guitar lessons at the store last year when he and Dominguez came together.
Jeunette claims Dominguez approached him for help. Dominguez claims it was the other way around. Dominguez claims Jeunette misrepresented himself, saying he was an attorney. Jeunette says he made it clear that he is only a paralegal.
Whatever the case, on the first Friday in September, Dominguez met with Jeunette and outlined the store's troubles.
Jeunette says he told Dominguez she had to get into bankruptcy court immediately to avoid being shut down. "We had to bust our butts to get that petition filed by 4 p.m. that day," Jeunette says. "The IRS lady was due back Monday morning, and she would have locked the doors."
Jeunette contacted an attorney he knew, Bert Roos, to draft a hasty petition for Chapter 11 reorganization and get it filed by the end of the court's business day.
The store was indeed in dire trouble, according to bankruptcy-court filings. It owed almost $375,000 to creditors--although the largest chunk of that, by far, was the $200,000-plus owed to Dominguez herself. Back taxes, state and federal, were in excess of $66,000. The store listed about $100,000 in assets.
Although he urged her to file for bankruptcy protection, Jeunette says, he had "no interest whatsoever" in assuming control of the business.
Within the next two months, however, the store slowly slipped out of Dominguez's hands and into Jeunette's.
@body:From their first meeting on, Dominguez contends that Jeunette pressured her into giving up control of the store, telling her "I'm going to save you, lady."
Jeunette remembers it differently, saying that Dominguez was practically begging him to come in and run the business.
"I was constantly asked to come in and manage the store. I wanted no part of this business," he says. "I finally did agree to be manager in some way."
Actually, in quite a big way. Within two weeks of the bankruptcy filing, Dominguez and Jeunette signed a "consulting agreement," under which the bankrupted business would pay Jeunette $30 an hour to take over "complete management of Arizona Music Center, which shall include overseeing employees' scheduling and inventory control."
Eventually, Dominguez signed her personal van over to Jeunette to pay some of the consulting fees.
Four weeks later, Jeunette brought in divorce attorney Hyman Brazlin, who agreed to put up at least $10,000 to buy new inventory for the store.
And one month after that, Dominguez says she was presented with a contract which gave Jeunette 40 percent of the store and Brazlin 20 percent in exchange for saving it.
Under the terms of the agreement, Jeunette put up no money, but was guaranteed a salary of $3,500 a month for two years. Dominguez was guaranteed a minimum salary of $2,750 a month for at least two years.
Dominguez kept a 40 percent share of the store--stock that everyone agrees is currently worthless--and was promised that, should it ever be possible, the company would pay her back the more than $200,000 she had lent it.
Dominguez signed all the documents, she says, because she felt she had little choice.
"I thought they were honest," she says. "They assured me that I would be protected."
Jeunette became a constant presence at the shop, taking over its daily operations. He and Dominguez began to clash with some regularity, both acknowledge.
"He said, 'From now on, I am the boss and what I say goes,'" Dominguez says. "He said, 'If you don't cooperate, you're out on the street.'"
Jeunette and Brazlin counter that Dominguez would not get out of the way and let them save her. "She was disruptive. She would argue with everybody," Jeunette says. "There was constant argument."
The weeks of tension came to a head earlier this year when Jeunette told Dominguez she was not to work at the store anymore, but could remain as an outside salesperson. She was supposed to hustle instruments and equipment to schools and churches.
Daughter Diana Lee was fired outright from her job at the store. Dominguez son, Rick, has continued to work there throughout the turmoil.
In March, Ruby says, the store held one of her paychecks, and then cut her off the payroll completely. In late April, she says, desperate for some source of income, Dominguez opened a booth at the Swap Mart on 27th Avenue, peddling picks and guitar strings to try to bring in some cash.
She is four months behind on her mortgage payments, and the finance company is about to foreclose on her house, she says bitterly. "Here I am trying to make a little money off of a Mickey Mouse booth," she says. "They have my store. It's not a family store anymore."
Jeunette and Brazlin, however, say that Dominguez's pay was cut off only after she opened the Swap Mart booth. Under the terms of the contracts, Dominguez agreed not to compete with the store in any way.