Consumer affairs officials have impounded the merchandise of a Wayne dress shop that closed in the
middle of prom season.

The state is working to help customers of The Red Carpet Pageant and Prom in Wayne to reclaim any dresses that they paid for. Customers will need receipts.

The state says at least 16 customers paid in full or part for dresses that were not delivered. The transactions total $5,400. Superior Court Judge Margaret Mary McVeigh ordered a temporary freeze of the defendants’ assets, and authorized the Division of Consumer Affairs and a temporary receiver to impound the store’s merchandise.

Attorney General Chiesa says one dress has already been returned to a consumer who provided proof that she had purchased the garment.

“A prom is a significant event in a teenager’s life, and one for which many consumers deposit significant amounts of money for the perfect dress,” Attorney General Chiesa said. “We will not tolerate businesses that make false promises to consumers, then fail to provide the goods or services consumers have paid for.”

The State is seeking to make the freeze of the defendants’ assets permanent to enable full restitution for affected consumers.

Red Carpet manager Patricia Dowling of Deptford and her husband, Michael, are accused of violating New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act. Patricia Dowling also is charged with filing a false police report after she claimed 40 dresses were stolen. Police say the store's security cameras captured Dowling taking the dresses off
the rack.

Customers can call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 973-504-6321.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.