What began as a thread of social media complaints about a local business allegedly taking money for services, and then not delivering those services, has turned into a police investigation and civil lawsuit.
Musicafe Rock School, run by Lisa Landucci of Albany for the past 15 years, offers private and group music instruction. But at least a half-dozen former clients and employees claim they never received the lessons for which they paid, nor were they paid for the work they performed.
Two of those people have gone to the Albany Police Department, according to Detective Travis Giboney.
"People have filed reports with us and so we are looking into the case," said Giboney.
Albany resident Michael Winder last month sued the school in small claims court. He said he paid nearly $400 for guitar lessons he's never received, and that multiple attempts to contact Landucci have been unsuccessful.
Winder told the D-H he'd signed up for summer lessons in June, and paid through an app.
"Then it was total radio silence for two months," he said. "Aside from a brief 'I don't do refunds' message she sent after I told her I filed the small claims suit. She just refused to schedule the lessons, even though I paid her up front."
Still, Landucci has supporters. Two Albany residents contacted the D-H to voice support for her. Louisa Shelby said her son Conner was "a rock school kid" from age 10 in 2008 until he entered college, when he became an instructor at the school. She said her family never experienced any trouble with service or communication.
"Pretty much rock school was his second home for a lot of years," she said.
She said she believes there could have been some communication problems with recent clients, and came to Landucci's defense regarding her refund policy.
"You have to have boundaries," she said.
Shelby also said she thinks a mob mentality took hold through social media, with a few unhappy customer stirring others up to where it got out of proportion.
Albany resident Shawna Corden said her two daughters loved the time they spent at the rock school in 2008.
"They really had a great experience, and to my knowledge, all the other kids had fantastic experiences as well," she said.
Corden added that she was shocked to hear of the accusations, and that sending her kids to the rock school was one of the best things she could have done for her kids.
"We never had any kind of experience like that," she said, speaking about the allegations of fraud.
Landucci also said people who posted comments in her defense were deleted from social media. Julie Meier, who has known Landucci for years, agrees.
"They tried and convicted Lisa on Facebook and that is just immature and horrible," said Meier.
Meier said Lisa would never intentionally scam anyone, and that she gave kids the opportunity to be confident and perform.
"She has meant so much for the kids," said Meier. "I suspect some of the grievances are true, but as a community we should be building people up instead of shaming them on social media."
Giboney said the investigation at this point centers on determining whether a crime has even been committed.
"Having a failed business is not a criminal offense," he said. "At this point we have not talked to Lisa (Landucci) and we are not planning to arrest her."
What police are doing, Giboney explained, is gathering facts. He said detectives are interested in what people paid for and when they paid for it, which could correspond with Landucci's downtown Albany location closing down a little more than two weeks ago.
"Usually, when people close a business, they know when that's going to happen," he said.
In a telephone conversation, Landucci said she only closed her downtown business location because the rent was too high, and that she still has her home studio where she gives lessons.
"All my current students are loving it," she said.
Landucci also said that the people complaining are "hopping this crazy bandwagon" to come out against her.
Giboney said Landucci's Facebook posts showing her on vacation in Europe raise concerns in light of the accusations.
"If she's taking people's money and then going off on vacations, that's concerning," he said.
But according to Landucci, she took the trip for a business training session for her other job as a marketing consultant with a company called Isagenix, described as a multilevel marketing company that sells dietary supplements and personal care products through independent sales representatives.
Landucci said her work with Isagenix pays for those trips and that her work with the school is for joy and teaching kids as a side business.
"I only have worked three days a week at that rock school since I opened it," she wrote in a message. "It's not my bread and butter and hasn't been for a few years."
Landucci also said she has proof that all those complaining have either "been taken care of or settled." She also said that some employees were simply not used to being a contract employee, and had forgotten to send some invoices.
She added that she is appalled by the accusations.
"I've been a part of this community for 15 years," she said. "But I feel like I've been open and transparent for so long that it has just made me vulnerable."
Giboney asks that any former clients who may have complaints about the school contact the Albany Police Department, 541-917-7680.