Independents

Former Employees File New Lawsuit Against CD Peacock

IndependentsApr 06, 2022

Former Employees File New Lawsuit Against CD Peacock

Like the previous suit, it accuses the jeweler of conspiring to sell Rolex watches on the gray market and firing whistleblowers.

In a new lawsuit filed against C.D. Peacock, former employees have again accused the Chicago-area jeweler of conspiring to sell Rolex watches to gray market resellers and firing those who blew the whistle on the alleged scheme. (Image courtesy of C.D. Peacock’s website)
Chicago—A new lawsuit was filed against Chicago-area jeweler C.D. Peacock last month as part of an ongoing dispute with former employees.

In the suit, Olga Nelson, Suzana Krajisnik, and Giuseppe Di Lorenzo accuse the retailer and some of its employees of conspiring to sell Rolex watches to gray market resellers overseas and firing them for blowing the whistle on their activities.

Previously, Krajisnik filed a lawsuit against C.D. Peacock owner Seymour Holtzman and four of his employees in federal court in Illinois in February 2021, but the case was dismissed without prejudice in April.

In the initial lawsuit, Krajisnik claimed she was fired for being a whistleblower on the alleged conspiracy.

The suit included the names of two other terminated C.D. Peacock employees who also believe they were fired for notifying management of the situation and refusing to participate.

The new lawsuit, filed March 23 in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Illinois, reiterates these same claims and adds the two employees, Nelson and Di Lorenzo, as plaintiffs.

The defendants include C.D. Peacock, its location in the Old Orchard Mall, and Holtzman, who has since transferred ownership of the retailer to son Steven Holtzman.

Staffing and payroll company ADP and Tandem Professional Services have been added as defendants for their alleged roles in the firing of at least one of the former employees.

Illinois law allows for “respondents in discovery” to be named as well.  These respondents can be converted to defendants.

The respondents are Rolex Watch U.S.A. and Chad Adams, a Rolex regional sales representative, as well as former CDP CEO Robert Baumgardner, employee Yingxue Duan, and store managers Christopher Croteau and Dyol Hill.

While it is not illegal to violate Rolex policies or to sell watches on the gray market, the lawsuit claims the defendants violated numerous federal and state laws, including money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, immigration fraud, credit card fraud, and federal income tax evasion.

“Our clients allege they were fired from C.D. Peacock after they refused to take part in a far-reaching scheme that involved a litany of illegal activities committed in order to profit by getting this merchandise into the hands of foreign gray market resellers,” said Haskell Garfinkel of Garfinkel Group LLC, whose firm is one of two representing the plaintiffs.

The complaint outlines several instances of Duan allegedly engaging in illegal behavior and violating store and Rolex policies and details an alleged scheme by C.D. Peacock to sell Rolex watches directly into the Asian market.

Di Lorenzo, the former Rolex manager of C.D. Peacock’s store in the Old Orchard Mall, claims in the suit that Duan was “making remote sales of Rolex products, on the phone and online, to heretofore unknown customers,” and “regularly engaging in forging signatures on credit card receipts” to sign for customers who had never visited the store.  

Multiple watches also were being shipped out of state at one time to avoid sales taxes, also violating C.D. Peacock and Rolex policies, the suit alleges.

Krajisnik claimed in the suit that she friended Duan on Facebook and noticed she was posting Rolex products for sale in foreign countries, including on pages for jewelry resellers. 

The suit shares details of Duan’s public social media posts, translated from Mandarin into English, in which she is allegedly negotiating Rolex sales with customers.

In one she wrote, “Official price is $75,000. If you are interested, I can take more pictures,” and, “I can ask my boss and then apply for a discount. I work at an authorized Rolex dealer.”

In another conversation, Duan allegedly said, “If you need detailed pictures with detail, I can take it for you. I work at [an] overseas authorized Rolex authorized dealer. Shipped directly from the store with stickers.”

The lawsuit also details a meeting former CEO Baumgardner had in September 2019 with Adams, the Rolex regional sales rep, to “discuss material violations of the distribution agreement, including but not limited to Rolex’s uncovering of the prohibited sale and ‘gray market’ resale of products online by Duan and defendants.”

After this meeting, Baumgardner allegedly released a memo to management-level employees, reiterating the company’s commitment to Rolex’s sales policies.

 Related stories will be right here … 

According to the lawsuit, the former employees shared the above details with management, including Holtzman, Baumgardner and store managers Croteau and Hill.

After speaking with management, the employees were fired in retaliation, said the suit, adding “the basis of their firings was false and pretextual.”

As per the filing, Nelson claimed she was falsely accused of, and fired for, sexual harassment after saying a member of management she believed to be complicit in the alleged scheme was “in bed” with an employee.

Krajisnik was said to be fired for poor sales numbers, though she claimed her low numbers were the result of Rolex sales being given to Duan.

Di Lorenzo was fired because he extended credit to a customer whose driver’s license was set to expire a few months after the transaction, as per court documents.

In a statement to National Jeweler, a C.D. Peacock spokesperson described the employees as “disgruntled” and said they were terminated for cause.

“The case was previously brought by one of these employees a year ago in federal court and then immediately abandoned when early rulings went against her in that action,” the retailer said.

“CDP intends to vigorously defend this action, as it did the previous one.”

Another well-known luxury watch brand, Patek Philippe, was mentioned in the original complaint. The new lawsuit, however, does not include Patek Philippe.

As of Jan. 31, C.D. Peacock ended its 30-year partnership with Patek Philippe, a C.D. Peacock spokesperson confirmed to National Jeweler.

“Demand from our customers exceeds availability which, in turn, creates disappointment when we are not able to fill all client requests,” the company said. “We continue to explore partnerships with luxury brands that we will announce this year because satisfying our distinguished collectors remains a priority.”

C.D. Peacock was founded in Chicago in 1837, making it one of the city’s oldest retailers, and has three locations in Illinois, with a new flagship in the works.

Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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