Above: A fashion faux pas nearly as criminal as Ms. Ottinger's.
With the exception of my extremely ethical mother, I thought it was somewhat accepted that interior designers overbill their clients.
(Hey, if you really need professional advice on which throw pillow best matches the sofa, frankly, you deserve to pay through the nose. And have your head examined. In my not-so-humble opinion.)
Apparently, though, there are limits to just how much interior designers can fleece their clientele. St. Louis resident Kay Ottinger is an example.
Today the U.S. Attorney's Office indicted Ottinger, owner of the design company Well
Appointed, Inc., on charges that she overbilled clients by approximately $1 million.
According to the indictment, Ottinger and her clients agreed upon a flat fee for her services based on her actual cost, plus a commission percent based on her actual cost. The indictment alleges that Ottinger then submitted itemized cost figures for her goods and services that were falsely inflated. In some instances she allegedly created fictitious invoices of "straw" companies to conceal the actual cost of goods and services.
The scheme allegedly caused the clients to overpay Ottinger approximately $1 million. Ottinger, 50, was indicted by a federal grand jury on five felony counts of mail fraud. If convicted, each count carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service.