The district attorney on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against six of the largest makers and retailers of police uniforms in Los Angeles, alleging that they conspired to keep other companies out of the business to protect their own profits.
The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, stems from a three-year investigation into accusations by small, upstart retailers that they are unable to get key products from manufacturers because of pressure being brought by three of the largest and most well-established uniform outlets in the area.
The suit also alleged that some of the defendants made phony bids on police contracts as a “courtesy” to one another with the intent to “deceive the agencies” and make it appear that the prices being offered were truly the lowest available.
Charged in the suit are Leventhal Brothers & Co. of New York City, Fechheimer Brothers Co. of Cincinnati, and Elbeco Inc. of Reading, Pa., three of the largest manufacturers of police uniforms in the United States.
Also charged were three of Southern California’s largest retailers of police uniforms--Long Beach Uniform Co. of Long Beach and its president, Gary Howard; Uniforms Inc. of Los Angeles and its president, William Jabour, and Louis the Tailor of Montebello and its former owner, Daniel Mungo. Louis the Tailor is now owned by Fechheimer Brothers.
Wayne Adrian, owner of Uniforms Inc., denied the allegations. “The suit has no merit,” he said. Other defendants could not be reached or declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The investigation, Adrian said, was rooted in complaints by owners of I & S Uniforms, who are Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Los Angeles Police Department officers.
“It looks easy for any policeman to get into it . . . but once they’re in they see” how tough a business it can be, Adrian said. He also claimed to have complained to the Sheriff’s Department internal affairs division about the activities of I & S, but was ignored.
I & S employees were among the investigators the district attorney used in making hours of surreptitious tape recordings to help build the county’s case, Mike Delaney, deputy district attorney, confirmed. But, he added, they were working for the district attorney and not in their capacity as deputies or LAPD officers.
Under California law, manufacturers can sell, or refuse to sell, their products to any retailer they choose. But it is illegal for them to make that decision under pressure from competing retailers. The district attorney is alleging that the three big retailers threatened to pull their business from the manufacturers if they sold goods to other competitors.
Through the lawsuit, the district attorney is seeking a permanent injunction to stop any illegal business practices and fines of $2,500 for each violation of the state’s Business Code.