Amazing Pet Expos blames money problems on ‘fanatical’ bookkeeper
This news report was revised on November 2, 2017 to clarify the claims made by a vendor in connection with the 2016 Portland Pet Expo.
ST. CHARLES, Mo. – This weekend’s planned St. Charles Pet Expo remains cancelled despite claims from the company that it’s a go.
Bill Rilenge, a spokesman for Amazing Pet Expos, said he could explain everything. He then failed to follow through with a planned interview with Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes.
Rilenge said Friday they still planned to hold this weekend’s convention. He added that his company’s money problems are not the company’s fault. He said he’d follow up Monday to explain everything and then he stopped talking.
As Fox 2 / KPLR 11 first told you Thursday, the St. Charles Convention Center said the St. Louis Pet Expo cancelled because of “Amazing Pet Expos’ unmet contractual obligations.”
An Oregon company says it’s also having trouble keeping Amazing Pet Expo to its obligations. Oregon Event & Tent Company reports supplying booth supplies to the St. Louis Company for the 2016 Portland Pet Expo, which happened as scheduled. Oregon Event & Tent’s Kim Edwards says her company has been trying for months to collect payment. In an email, Edwards explained how Amazing Pet Expo wrote two checks that did not go through. She wrote, “The NSF check was for $6,000. They put a stop payment order on another one they gave us for $948.”
On its web site, Amazing Pet Expos claims it’s the victim of a former bookkeeper.
Bill Rilenge posted a restraining order online, claiming the former employee “physically attacked him and went into a fanatical tirade.” The company’s statement adds that the former employee believed she “was Moses reincarnated.” It also includes text messages like this one: “Warning! You have aligned yourself with the devil and his minions.”
Rilenge said Friday he wanted to talk about the 16 successful conventions his company pulled off this year and also explain how they’re working to refund people for the cancelled conventions. He didn’t follow through with this conversation on Monday.
Meanwhile, you can read the entire Amazing Pet Expos statement below. Additional information is on the Amazing Pet Expos website.
Thank you for being an Amazing Pet Expos client or attendee. We value and appreciate your business and without your involvement, we could not have grown to the point where we are today (178 pet expos over a 9 year period in over 20 cities across the country). We are writing to let you know of a very unfortunate series of events that may have impacted your business directly, as a result of our company being targeted by a former employee and a few disgruntled vendors who are actively working against us based on slander, false assumptions, religious extremism, and hatred of diversity. We are contacting you to provide a number of details that hopefully will help you understand what has happened in the second half of our 2017 expo calendar. We are also going to provide copies of texts, legal documents, restraining orders and other items, redacted where necessary by law so that you may be aware of these actions being taken.
From 2009 to 2017, our company experienced rapid growth due to the success of each new event. We grew from 1 show in 2009 to a record high of 33 in 2013 and overall have produced 178 successful pet expos in 9 years. Due to our rapid growth, our longtime bookkeeper, who is also a family friend, and heavily invested in rescue, became entirely overwhelmed by the workload. As we grew, her ability to handle the tremendous amount of paperwork, permits, invoices, bills, payroll, vendor payments, card processing and contracts simply became too much. Because the shows were successful and we were on the road sometimes 30 times per year, many of the issues that were compounding were missed. In late 2016, we made the difficult decision to part ways with our friend and bookkeeper, and hire someone that could not only clean up an administrative mess, but create systems and programs moving forward that would coincide with our growth and scope of production.
WHAT WENT WRONG
After interviewing firms, individuals and agencies, we decided on hiring someone who we thought was the perfect fit. Although the price was high, we hired a full-time Controller who had over 30 years of experience, was an MBA, a CPA and had dealt with situations similar to ours. The fact is, we had a huge mess, and she seemed like the person to expedite the cleanup process. In fact, she campaigned heavily for the job. At first, it seemed like the best decision we could have made, however, it shortly became a nightmare. While we are a small company, we have always prided ourselves on being accepting and diverse. What we did not know is that our new Controller was far from what we anticipated and ultimately created more issues than ever. The truth is, we had no idea for some time. In fact, we hired her daughter to come in and assist us with data entry and the overall clean up. It was her daughter who eventually brought what was happening to our attention, via a tape recording she made of her mother. In this recording, our Controller discussed a number of things openly, unaware she was being recorded. She had come to believe she was a prophet tasked with writing a new book of the Bible, was Moses reincarnated, and that the COO of our company was the anti-Christ. She had been timing all of the COO’s actions and claimed they all took place in increments of six seconds, six minutes, six hours, etc, thereby confirming he was indeed Satan. She was incredibly sickened by our LGBTQ staff members, and in the most chilling portion of the recording, stated she needed to kill the COO/Satan. She was also destroying documents and files, deleting QuickBooks accounts and backups, sending irrational emails to our vendor list, and in a sickening twist, found three or four “allies” in people that we had previously or currently were doing business with. After hearing the tape, the COO, William Rilenge, confronted her. At this time, she physically attacked him, and went into a fanatical tirade. She was removed from the building by security, and eventually arrested by the police. Before that could happen, she emailed raving emails full of our personal and professional financial information and other details to our entire vendor list, singled out the LGBTQ members of our staff by name, and caused a serious amount of damage. We heightened security, and obtained restraining orders, filed police reports, filed insurance claims, but the reality was that we are only about a dozen people, and this was like an atomic bomb. Contracts were gone, bank statements were gone, and check copies went missing. QuickBooks files and accounts were deleted, including the backup files. The COO, for whatever reason became the focus of the threats and religious paranoia. In short, it was and is a total nightmare. Even with the restraining orders and criminal charges, she continually sends hate filled texts from spoof numbers to our staff members and we will post many of those below to give you an idea of just what we are dealing with. To date, this person has continued her efforts to undermine the company’s future events.
WHAT ARE WE DOING?
Upon becoming aware of the extent of the former CPA’s actions, we fired her immediately. We also have moved our offices to a new location. In addition, because this person’s actions have crossed multiple state lines we have more recently involved the federal agencies. Many of our venues and providers for 2018 have been secured and are working with the authorities, as well as our business attorney who is trying to push through our employee negligence insurance claim. Internally, we have begun to rebuild our records, and databases. We are also fighting back legally against the few organizations and vendors who are illegally contacting our vendors, other exhibitors, venues and others in an attempt to disrupt daily business without asking for or considering the facts contained in this statement. These actions have been painful for our staff and also impacted many vendors, but we are committed to fight back and to regain the trust of many of our longtime vendors and partners.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
In order to build upon the 178 shows we have produced since 2009 we need you! We can’t produce this event without your support and continued business. Many of you have provided extremely positive testimonials from your personal experience and have grown your business as a result of the shows. Startups to non-profits to national corporations continue to see the value in the pet expos that were successfully produced in 2017. We appreciate and value our relationship and partnerships with all of you and would like to continue to help grow pet businesses everywhere.
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION.
In 2017 we have successfully held the following shows: SoCal, Bay Area, Las Vegas, San Diego, Kansas City, South Florida, Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, Phoenix, Austin, Denver, Minnesota, Seattle Tacoma, and Oklahoma City. As a result of these successful shows we have a total attendance number of 200,000 + in 2017.
As a result of the ongoing actions of a former employee, which has caused a snowball affect internally, the following shows have been postponed and re-scheduled for 2018: Cleveland, Virginia Beach, New England, Portland.
The following shows have been cancelled: Memphis, Nashville, Windy City.
Despite the number of postponed or cancelled shows we have not denied a single refund request and are working to expedite any and all refunds. We also have a number of options for anyone who has been affected by this situation as an effort to provide additional exposure for their business. In addition, we are working with our insurance provider on an existing employee negligence claim.
FOR MORE INFORMATION.
If you have any questions about an existing refund request or in reference to this letter, please call 1-800-220-5520, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time.
We take the relationship and customer service with our customers very seriously, and have many partners who continue to support our shows. We value the trust our customers place in us and, while we are working to address this unfortunate situation quickly, we regret that this happened and apologize for the inconvenience that it may have caused you.