Families across Georgia are convinced they’re victims of theft and want to know why police aren’t doing anything about it.
Perhaps it’s because no one broke into their houses. In this case, the families gave up the keys.
The estate sale industry is a cash-based business with little accountability since there is no governing board or industry licensing requirement. The industry used to focus on families that needed to liquidate a house after a loved one died. But it’s now rapidly growing as baby boomers downsize.
Investigator Rebecca Lindstrom spoke with six women who each claim they are missing either furniture or money after hiring the same estate sale company.
Amy Cantando hired Sentimental Journeys Estate Sales, LLC owned by Kathy Dove in 2015 after her mother died. She lived in North Carolina while her mom was living in Suwanee, Georgia. Cantando says she hired Dove to sell her mom's furniture and mementos, as well as empty the house before the realtor came for closing.
But the realtor, who walked through the house beforehand, said there was still trash throughout her mother’s home. Cantando texted Dove, who again promised to take care of it. Hours before closing, the realtor was forced to hire another company to get the job done.
Cantando did receive a check for the sale about two weeks later, but it was written to the wrong name. Cantando had no way to cash it.
Not only that, but she also arranged for Dove to take several items to consignment. Three years later, Cantando says she has not received any money from those sales, nor does she know where her mother’s furniture was taken.
Despite hiring a lawyer and sending a demand for payment letter, Cantando says she never heard from Dove again.
“At this point, it’s no longer about the money for me, but about the principle and the fact that she is stealing from people at an extremely vulnerable time,” Cantando said.
Lindstrom tried to talk with Dove outside her home in Bethlehem.
When Lindstrom asked Dove if she had paid everyone with whom she had done business, Dove simply replied, “I’m running late.”
It’s a yes or no question that Rebecca Charles would love to hear answered.
She too says she is out thousands of dollars, after holding an estate sale in October of 2017 in Dawsonville, Georgia. She used Dove’s new company under the name North Georgia Estate Sales LLC.
After Charles threatened to sue, Dove sent her a check for half of what she was owed. Charles has no idea when, or if, she’ll ever get the rest.
Charles said she had concerns about hiring an estate sale company.
“Because you have to trust these people with everything. I can’t count everything here. I can’t inventory everything,” Charles said. “This is 40 years of my mom’s stuff.”
Charles reluctantly decided to hold an estate sale when her mother’s health began to deteriorate. The money was to go toward her care. Now, she sits surrounded by what’s left of her mom’s belongings and wonders what to do next.
“I thought if I do this interview will I ever have a chance at getting paid again? But there are so many people that she’s wronged, I’m hoping to save that next person,” Charles said.
Those who feel wronged can file a civil lawsuit, but Janice Raddatz knows it’s often a hollow victory.
Raddatz hired Cherry Hill Enterprises, an estate sale company owned by Lynda Lastinger, in May of 2016 to sell the belongings that filled her five-bedroom bed and breakfast in Cleveland, Georgia.
A judge ruled Lastinger owed her $7,891 for sales receipts and furniture she says went missing. Nearly a year later, Raddatz says she has yet to see a dime of it.
Raddatz and several other victims filed police reports and hounded police for months to make an arrest. Lastinger now faces criminal charges in Fulton, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties for felony theft by conversion. But even if convicted, victims may never see their money or belongings again.
“I want this woman stopped,” Raddatz said.
Lindstrom left several phone messages for Lastinger. A family member confirmed she had received the calls, but Lastinger has yet to respond to the allegations. Lindstrom also called the attorney listed in court records.
As for Dove, she keeps dodging bad reviews with a new company name. She’s now operating under the name Athens Estate Sales. Dove told 11Alive there was more to the story, but declined to explain it.
In emails sent the past two years to clients who were trying to collect their cash she’s blamed “serious accounting issues,” “very bad business decisions,” and even an “accident.”
However, Dove always promises her clients to make it right.
Charles, on the other hand, believes the promise is as empty as her mother’s house.