EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - It's an investigation you'll only see on Western Mass News.
A local barbershop owner partnered with a company based in East Longmeadow, hoping to expand his business, only to be left high and dry.
Several clients of that barbershop also affected.
The company we're talking about is Lyte International, which was founded by Christian Braman of Chicopee.
The company touted itself as a beauty and fashion on demand service.
However, a vendor, not getting paid completely for the work he was doing, and customers, not getting the services they paid for, are speaking out.
Evan Nyman founded Bentley's Barbershop in Springfield four years ago.
As a business man, he's always looking to grow. That's why he was all ears when he heard about Lyte International from a friend.
"He was a customer of mine for a long time so I trusted him. He worked there for a couple weeks and he was bragging about how good it was, how much pay he got," Nyman tells us.
The business model that originally hooked Nyman and many others: customers paying monthly memberships to get beauty and fashion services 24/7, 365 days a year.
"They can get massages, facials, eyebrow threading, haircuts, you name it. Anytime they want, anywhere they want," stated Nyman.
Nyman tells Western Mass News he met with Lyte International CEO and owner Christian Braman about teaming up to offer services at his barbershop.
He says Braman told him…
"We can set something up with you where you get $45 every haircut you do, and you just check it in. I just stayed quiet, because it sounds really good for me and not so good for him," continued Nyman.
Envisioning the good it would do for his business, Nyman says he signed a barbershop/salon partnership agreement with Lyte International, where he would sign up the barbershop's clients and offer haircuts to Lyte's members.
Nyman paid $1,000 in start-up fees, but he quickly grew frustrated after he says he signed up close to fifty of his clients and wasn't receiving any money from Lyte.
"In my shop, I have two extra chairs that aren't being utilized and he said he was going to fill them up with his Lyte International people and that he would pay me $200 per week per chair, and I never received rent for those chairs as well," says Nyman.
That agreement made clear in these documents.
At this point, Nyman says he confronted Braman.
"He stops by with $700 cash for me," said Nyman.
"This situation has lead from one thing to another and it wasn't supposed to go this far. It wasn't supposed to be like this," explained Braman.
We sat down with the CEO and founder of Lyte International, Christian Braman, to get answers.
Braman alleges he paid Nyman $1,500 and that Nyman only signed up fifteen new subscriptions.
Nyman stands behind the fact he was only paid $700.
Ricardo Miller worked for Lyte International since August and he says in that time period, he saw fifteen employees.
Did any of them complain about not getting paid?
"Yes, and one of them left because they weren't getting paid," former Lyte International employee Ricardo Miller stated.
Braman, however, tells us he did pay his employees.
A spokesperson with the Attorney General's office tells us they have received seven complaints about Lyte International, two consumer complaints and five complaints to their Fair Labor Division.
We reached out to the Better Business Bureau and found no consumer complaints on file for Lyte, but they are investigating the business after receiving a spike in inquiries.
They've been investigating the company since July of 2018.
This Summer, Western Mass News screenshotted these testimonials from the Lyte International website that showed high praise testimonials for Lyte from well-known business leaders from H.P., Wal-Mart, and Google.
On their website, the Better Business Bureau says they asked him to substantiate the claims made in the testimonials.
Braman says, however, that that's not what they asked for.
"They wanted me to send the contact information, the emails, the phone numbers, and what subscription they subscribed to and everything else for everybody. They wanted all my customer information," continued Braman.
Nancy Cahalen, president and CEO with the Better Business Bureau serving central and western Mass, tells us over the phone that their letter to Braman said...
"We'd like him to confirm that they were past customers of his. We asked him to provide contact information for those customers so we can verify his claim that they were his customers," said Cahalen.
Cahalen says they never received the information they requested and shortly after, the testimonials were removed from the website.
The East Longmeadow Police Department also telling us they are actively investigating the business.
Western Mass News has found the company is now listed as "permanently closed" online.
With criticism of his company growing, the CEO says…
"I have closed that name, that brand, that concept. I feel like it'd be best for me to pursue my education and do everything the right way rather than trying to figure things out as I go, because clearly it hasn't worked for me," explained Braman.
He tells Western Mass News that everyone who bought a subscription and didn't use the services will get a refund, but those that used the services, per the company policy, will not get a refund.
"I did not intend to scam anybody. That's not the label that I want. It's not something that I was out to do. I wasn't out to take people's money or drain their bank accounts so to say. All of this stuff they're accusing me of is not true," says Braman.
Former employees alleging they weren't paid are now without a job and a business owner trying to compensate for the damage the agreement he made has caused.
"I actually left Home Depot in Westfield for this job, because it was more money, and now I just don't have a job," former Lyte International employee Isiah Cayode stated.
"He's been doing this a long time and none of these people have ever gotten their money back. None of these people have ever received their services. It's all been a lie," former Lyte International employee Josean Baez said.
"He put my family, my name, everything at risk and jeopardized everything, because that's how I support my family, because if I lose my business, I lose all that," added Nyman.
The Better Business Bureau tells us that even though the company is closed, they will continue to investigate.
Both they and the Attorney General's office is asking anyone who may have been affected by this business should contact their offices.
To contact the Better Business Bureau, you are asked to call their office at 508-755-3340 and select the option to speak with their operator.