While most teens excitedly await their prom, one Astoria girl was left scrambling for a gown after a local shop owner allegedly scammed her out of her dress.
Slims Florentino, 17, claims she gave Astoria Bridal & Boutique owner Jose Gabriel a total of $330 toward a $500 prom dress in February. The money was paid in small increments, compiled from saved baby-sitting earnings, she said.
Florentino alleges Gabriel told her the dress would arrive two weeks later, but when she returned to pick up the gown, he informed her it would now take an additional two weeks for the dress to be delivered.
When Florentino returned for the gown in early March, she was told the dress arrived, but in a size 12 instead of the size six she requested.
Soon after, Gabriel went missing, dodging Florentino’s persistent phone calls. After weeks of attempts to contact him, Florentino tracked him down at a different number. During their conversation, Gabriel told her he had gone to Puerto Rico because his father passed away.
Florentino then went to a boutique on Austin Street in Forest Hills, recommended by a classmate. There, she purchased another dress, for which she paid $315.
Florentino’s June 6 prom passed, without receiving the original dress she purchased from Gabriel.
She submitted a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). She said the agency spoke with Gabriel and demanded he give her a refund. He told DCA he paid her back in full. According to her, she has yet to see a cent.
The Long Island City High School senior is still attempting to get her money back from Gabriel, along with the two other dresses she had given him to sell for her. In late May he called her, asking if she thought it was a good idea for her to go on the news after she was interviewed by NY1. According to Florentino, Gabriel asked when he could see her. She told The Courier they have not met, and repeated attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.
A representative from the Better Business Bureau of New York said they have no report on Astoria Bridal & Boutique and no complaints have been filed against the company.
Gina Almona, owner of Blo It Out, a hair salon next to Astoria Bridal & Boutique, said the store keeps strange hours, opening for several days before closing for a long, undetermined period of time. Almona alleged Gabriel often hid in the back of the shop when girls would come looking for their purchased gowns.
According to her, girls have run into her salon, crying and looking for Gabriel. She claims a girl she works with was also scammed out of a dress.
“I think it’s horrible,” said Almona. “Now it’s a reflection on everyone on this block. I told [the scammed girls] my heart is broken for you and I wish I could help you. Of course for the neighborhood it’s terrible.”
Calls to the DCA went unanswered as of press time.