A former pizza shop franchisee allegedly cheated more than 50 would-be investors out of nearly $700,000, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
William H. Brown Jr., 50, of Leacock Township owned two Fox’s Pizza Den franchises in eastern Lancaster County. He sold one for $25,000 without authorization from Fox’s, according to court documents. He then held town meetings to give members of the public a chance to buy shares in a planned second location, in Leacock Township, even though his franchise agreement did not allow him to do so.
Brown collected almost $700,000, but only spent about $148,000 on the restaurant, court documents state. One group that had invested $275,000 as part owners ultimately severed ties with Brown after he requested an additional $100,000 for the then yet-to-be-completed restaurant.
All together, more than 50 people bought shares of stock in the restaurant, court documents state. County detectives held two community meetings in January to find all the potential victims, many of whom were Amish or Mennonite.
Brown faces charges of theft and deceptive business practices, as well as violations of the Pennsylvania Securities Act. He is in Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $1 million bail.
The Leacock Township pizza shop is still open under different ownership. Those owners helped police with the investigation, the district attorney’s office said.
Authorities also charged Brown earlier this year for a scam involving a doughnut shop. In that case, Brown accepted $50,000 from a woman for a 49 percent share in the business, which was planned for the same building as the pizza shop.
Brown, however, never opened the store, and only paid $1,000 back to the woman, according to the district attorney’s office.