More complaints surface against First Coast interior designer

One Jacksonville family says they lost $58,000 to the owner of Sweet Southern Pickins.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — More families are coming forward with their stories, claiming a Jacksonville interior designer failed to follow through on work they hired her to do.

We first reported on the complaints against Sweet Southern Pickins on Friday, with one family’s push for answers and a refund.

“We were literally taken for $58,000, it’s like I just gave it away,” Carol Welden told First Coast News. 

She feels stiffed and stood up after paying the money for interior design work that she says she never received.

“No kind of service, products, or anything were returned for my money,” Welden explained.

We reached out to the owner of Sweet Southern Pickins, Marlena Heck, but have not heard back. Welden says Heck failed to deliver on their contract, which included outfitting her new Jacksonville retirement home.

Since our story with Welden aired last week, others have come forward sharing their negative experiences with Heck.  

Kristina Johnson wrote on Facebook, “We too filled a BBB complaint against them for incomplete work. We were contacted by the bureau and provided our records. We gave an honest review of the company on their Facebook page which they deleted multiple times and removed the rating function. I’m glad someone got justice.”

Beth Bradley responded, “I too was ripped off by her. She never responded to my phone calls or letters. I had to hire someone else to clean up her mess.”

RELATED: ‘Too trustworthy:’ Family loses $58,000 to Jacksonville interior designer for work that never happened

Consumer law attorney Austin Griffin says getting any money back can be tricky.  “Unfortunately, there is a process. I say unfortunately in this instance because these people were wronged, at least from what I can tell from the filings,” he said.

Welden won a civil judgment against Heck, but says she hasn’t received any reimbursement.

If Heck files for bankruptcy, Griffin says it may be hard to get any money back, but Welden could pursue a criminal case which he says could still compel Heck to pay the money back through court order restitution. 

“From my understanding, that wouldn’t be wiped out in bankruptcy because that would basically be a criminal fine,” Griffin said. 

Welden says she shared her story to warn others. She urges you to do your research, beyond using social media, before hiring anyone to do work on your home.

“The only other place I looked was her business on the internet, I didn’t dig any deeper,” Welden said.