SUN CITY CENTER, Fla. – When Bay Service Locksmith on North Pebble Beach Boulevard went up for sale in 2020, two intimate partners decided to purchase the company.
But by 2022, the business closed after one of the partners allegedly committed fraud on the other.
Frederick M. Villaneuve, 69, and Virginia Herdman, 66, agreed to purchase the locksmith service for $40,000. The couple agreed that Herdman would be named on the business license until Villaneuve paid off the company’s purchase price. The business was then to be placed in Villaneuve’s name.
Villaneuve served as the company’s locksmith.
According to a lawsuit filed on December 27, 2022, plaintiff Villaneuve claims that in October, Herdman withdrew all the money from the business accounts and shut down the company without his mutual consent.
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He claims he has lost several thousand in unpaid wages and several thousand dollars worth of tools. Villaneuve claims he had offered Herdman $25,000 to buy the business, but she refused. In the meantime, a five-year lease for commercial space must be paid by Villaneuve while he has allegedly lost his income source. He states he believes Herdman is trying to sell the business to an outside buyer.
To complicate matters, Villaneuve claims Herdman will not allow access to a home that the pair purchased together and will also not give Villaneuve access to his $35,000 truck.
Under a count of “Injunctive Relief,” the lawsuit states, “Mr. Villeneuve seeks an injunction ordering the Defendant to immediately stop any and all efforts to sell the company; to immediately reopen and resume all operations of the business; and to allow Mr. Villeneuve to resume operation of the business as usual.”
Under a count of “Fraud,” Villaneuve claims, “The Defendant knew that she would not transfer ownership of the company to Mr. Villeneuve…The Defendant intended to misrepresent that material fact to Mr. Villeneuve in order to induce him to invest in and purchase the company.”
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Under a count of “Conversion,” Villaneuve states he has lost his business, tools, truck and house despite his compliance with the mutual agreement that existed between him and Herdman. It appears that agreement was at least partially implied without a full, written contract. However, Herdman allegedly ran advertisements that denoted Villaneuve as the owner of the company, despite her unilateral decision to close it without his consent.
Douglas G. Jackson in St. Petersburg is Villaneuve’s attorney.
Attempts were made to contact Villaneuve and Herdman, but neither could be reached for comment.