A federal judge has given the owners of a Springfield hardware store the go-ahead to sue Ace Hardware for fraud after they allege the company's practices nearly bankrupted their store.
Roy and Pattie Ewers, the owners of Fischer Hardware on Backlick Road, claim that Ace used bogus financial documents to convince them to buy the 60-year-old store and turn it into a company franchise.
The Ewers also say that the hardware giant submitted those falsified documents to a bank in order to get approval on a small business loan that Ace officials told them they needed to become a franchise.
After getting the $1.8-million loan, which was guaranteed with taxpayer money by the Small Business Administration, the store quickly spiraled into bankruptcy. 70 percent of the store's staff was laid off due to the financial struggles.
"We were setup to fail," Roy said. "They told them (to) fix the numbers, manipulate the numbers; do whatever it takes to get this through."
Corporate lawyers had asked the judge to dismiss the fraud case and have said that they believe they will prevail against the Ewers. However, Ewers says that he has evidence of dozens of other stores that he alleges were duped by Ace.
"A lot have failed. A lot of people are suing. There is a pattern," he said.