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Southampton interior designer accused of stealing from client

A Southampton interior designer was arrested and charged with stealing nearly half a million dollars from a client, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said on Oct. 22.

Sean M. Bruns, 43, of Southampton, allegedly stole more than $480,000 from a Shelter Island woman who hired him in 2017 to do design and decoration work for her house in Florida.

Bruns was arraigned Oct. 22 in Southampton Village Justice Court on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records, officials said. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court Nov. 10.

Bruns’ attorney John Kern said by phone on Oct. 22 that he denies all charges and any wrongdoing on behalf of his client, whom he called "a respected, long-term member" of the Southampton business community.

"There’s also a civil suit pending, which states upon information and belief, that my client is owed money from this alleged victim for design services rendered," Kern said. "Unlike the district attorney’s office, we will not be trying this case in the press."

Kern said Bruns’ company, Old Town Crossing, has been a fixture of Southampton Village’s retail scene for 40 years.

"There are two sides to every story," he said. "This is a client-vendor disagreement. Nothing more, nothing less."

In a statement Bruns emailed to Newsday on Nov. 7, his lawyer Kern added that the project went on for a year and a half and involved eight invoices. Kern wrote Old Town Crossing took over the project for a 15,000 square-foot, five-building compound after the first designer bowed out, and the project is now with a third designer.

Prosecutors said Bruns and his Southampton-based company were to purchase home furnishings for the client, who paid them nearly $600,000, including a 30% markup fee. But the woman did not receive any of the products, according to the district’s attorney’s office.

"Not only did Mr. Bruns and his company not deliver on services promised to their client, but they took this alleged scheme a step further by providing the client with over a dozen forged documents to make it seem like the work had been done," Sini said in a statement.

Bruns and his company allegedly provided forged and fraudulent invoices and receipts, claiming them to be from furniture vendors, prosecutors said, noting they found those documents to be inconsistent with the ones they obtained from the vendors.

Prosecutors said the client recovered$104,462 from vendors that had received partial payments from Bruns and his company, leaving an outstanding balance of $489,456 paid to Bruns and his company for which she did not receive furniture or a refund.

Sini urged anyone who believes he or she is a victim of Bruns to call the Suffolk County district attorney’s office’s Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau at 631-853-4232. They could also email the office at InfoDA@suffolkcounty.gov.

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