Provincetown Business News and Information
By ERIC WILLIAMS | Cape Cod Times
The business of pleasure has turned painful for an estranged Outer Cape couple who are battling over control of two Commercial Street sex toy shops.
Maxine Kroll and Devioune Mayim-Daviau, former lovers who lived together in North Truro until earlier this year, are enmeshed in a bruising civil lawsuit regarding the future of Toys of Eros and Wild Hearts, according to court documents filed in Barnstable Superior Court.
The stores, located within several blocks of each other along Commercial Street, sell a variety of provocative clothing, adult toys and DVDs.
Kroll is also facing three counts of identity fraud, one charge of improper use of a credit card and one charge of possession of a blank credit card stemming from the alleged illegal use of Mayim-Daviau’s credit cards. Kroll is also alleged to have obtained an Oregon driver’s license that shows her picture but contains Mayim-Daviau’s personal information.
For the criminal case, Kroll is represented by Falmouth attorney J. Drew Segadelli, who called the charges ‘’unfounded.’’ Kroll’s pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 27 in Orleans District Court.
‘’I would suggest these present criminal allegations simply arise out of the ex-domestic partner attempting to gain an advantage and/or an upper hand as it relates to the business dispute,’’ Segadelli said.
The Toys of Eros on Commercial Street in Provincetown is one of two sex shops at the center of a bitter business dispute that has landed in court.
(Staff photo by Paul Blackmore)
The business dispute fills a thick folder at Barnstable Superior Court.
Allegations in the original suit, filed by Mayim-Daviau, as well as other counterclaims and affidavits, lay out a sad tale of love and business gone wrong.
Orleans District Court records also show that during 2006, both Mayim-Daviau and Kroll were arraigned on separate charges of assault and battery and violation of a protective order. In both cases, the charges were eventually dropped, though according to Mayim-Daviau’s civil suit, she spent April 22 through April 24 in the Barnstable County Correctional Facility awaiting arraignment.
‘’I just find it very, very sad that two people can go from loving each other and sharing everything to bitterness and trouble,’’ said a source familiar with the situation. ‘’Can the business survive? I doubt it. Can the people survive? That’s my question.’’
The company, Wild Hearts Inc., has not filed federal or state income tax returns for 2004 or 2005, and owes federal and state payroll withholding taxes, according to Mayim-Daviau’s lawsuit.
Court documents state Wild Hearts and Toys of Eros were forced to close temporarily this summer after employees walked out when their paychecks bounced.
The split between the two women has prevented inventory from reaching the stores in a timely manner, documents indicate, allegedly because Mayim-Daviau won’t allow company employees to access a storage area on her property in North Truro.
A July 24 e-mail from Wild Hearts Inc. general manager Fred Biddle to Mayim-Daviau asks Mayim-Daviau to deliver a laundry list of items to the stores, including numerous sex toys and DVDs. ‘’Maxine and I remain concerned about being unable to verify your accounting of inventory,’’ Biddle wrote.
Among other requests, Mayim-Daviau is asking the court to designate her as the majority shareholder of Wild Hearts Inc. and name her as a director and president of the corporation.
Mayim-Daviau also alleges Kroll has barred her from the retail location by blockading the doors and changing the locks.
Kroll and Mayim-Daviau, romantic partners at the time, purchased Wild Hearts Inc. in 2002 for $327,000, according to the lawsuit. The business consists of two leased locations in Provincetown and a retail Web site.
Mayim-Daviau made an initial investment of approximately $227,600 toward the purchase price, while Kroll kicked in $80,000, according to Mayim-Daviau’s suit. But a 2003 Internal Revenue Service document, filed to specify how much stock in the company each partner owned, indicated Kroll owned 50 percent of the shares, Mayim-Daviau owned 47 percent of the shares, with a minority owner, Lois Bruckno of Pennsylvania, owning 3 percent of the business.
Bruckno, who had previously been a business partner with Kroll in Delaware, filed a counterclaim in Barnstable Superior Court alleging Mayim-Daviau may have removed corporate funds for personal use and Mayim-Daviau has intimidated company employees.
An Aug. 21 affidavit by Wild Hearts employee Kerry Schwarz alleges Mayim-Daviau and her ‘’gang of friends’’ have been hanging out in front of the Wild Hearts store on Commercial Street and staring at her as she leaves the store. ‘’This activity makes me feel intimidated and anxious,’’ the affidavit states.
A second affidavit by Schwarz alleges that on July 4, Schwarz was stopped by Mayim-Daviau in the stairwell of the Wild Hearts store. ‘’She demanded that I give her the bank bag,’’ reads Schwarz’s affidavit. ‘’Despite knowing I was not supposed to give her the bank bag I felt I had to or I wouldn’t be able to get by her on the steps.’’
On Aug. 23, Barnstable Superior Court associate justice Christopher Muse issued a temporary order in the case appointing Wellfleet accountant George Malloy to serve as receiver of the company while the mess is sorted out. The order instructs Malloy to review financial records, determine preliminarily the amounts each partner invested in the company, seek tax return deadline extensions, and prepare tax returns for 2004 and 2005.
Muse ordered that Malloy assume control of corporation assets, including bank accounts, inventory and accounts receivable. He also ordered that all inventory be consolidated and secured, and that access to the inventory be provided to designated employees.
Muse also ordered that seven $1,500 weekly paychecks be tendered to Mayim-Daviau, and that Malloy determine when Kroll and Mayim-Daviau may be present at the stores.
Through Fred Biddle, Malloy declined to comment for this report.
Kroll also declined to comment. Her attorney in the civil case, Gerald Garnick of Hyannis, also declined to comment.
Through an office assistant, Mayim-Daviau’s attorney Edward Veara declined to comment on the case. Mayim-Daviau did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment and could not be located at her last given address.
Ronny Hazel, who owns Shop Therapy, a Commercial Street business that sells sex toys and videos, among other things, said he was sorry to hear of the trouble going on down the street at Toys of Eros and Wild Hearts. Hazel also said he wasn’t sure whether his competitors’ legal trouble had helped sales at his store.
‘’They’re more of a boutique, and we’re more for working class heroes,’’ he said. ‘’But I do know this: sex sells.’’
WOW. Now that’s what I call hanging out your dirty laundry!
I see a screenplay in the works.