Non-profit claims they are owed money by auction house

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Diane Dionne spends her days taking apart donated wedding dresses and making tiny baby gowns.

"It's my passion, seven days a week, 80 hours a week," said Dionne.

Her own daughter lost two babies.

"We had to find an outfit, we spent the entire day in the mall. There's nothing that tiny," she said.

She started the charity "Angel Gowns by Diane." She's now shipping gowns to families who have lost a baby all over the country for free.

"I'm never going to ask a family, you need to pay for shipping. They are already going through enough losing a baby," Dionne said.

In May the non-profit says they hired Houston's Auction Barn to head up a fundraiser, handing over dozens of items to be sold from collectibles to sporting event tickets. Diane says she is still waiting for the final payment.

"It's been bits and pieces when he has sent it and so many excuses. Now no communication whatsoever," said Dionne.

Vern Wallace, owner of Houston's Auction Barn, responded to our inquiry about the charity's complaint. Wallace said payments of $779 and $500 have been sent and admits he still owes $895.85 which he says he mailed on August 30. Dionne says she still hasn't received it.

"As early as this morning I checked and there's nothing there," she added. Wallace maintains it's in the mail.

The Better Business Bureau says the charity should have received all the money within two days of the May auction. Houston's Auction Barn has an "F" rating, six unanswered complaints, one person claims they are still owed more than $3,500.

Susan Burdick with the BBB said, "I would say to any consumer you need to get at least two to three bids from like similar companies. You need to have a contract and based on the complaints I don't think there was a contract signed." S
he also says that the laws on auction and estate sale companies are very loose in Texas.

"It's similar to the Wild West, there is really no regulation for this type of a sale. That's why it's very important any consumer having an in-house estate sale do homework," said Burdick.

Dionne says she's learned a tough lesson and is looking for other ways to keep the sewing machines going.

"If he's done this to more than one person, that's one person too many," she said.

The BBB says that "F" rating can stay for three years, especially if complaints are not addressed by the owner. The BBB urges consumers to do your homework on estate sale businesses, make sure all items are listed on an inventory sheet with prices and ask what the auction house will do with any items that don't sell.

Wallace responded again to our inquiries just before our story aired on Eyewitness News saying in an email, "We can have someone meet her as well. We will notify you when check has been run through the bank. We will stop payment on the one just sent out tomorrow afternoon just in case they receive it today or tomorrow."

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