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Women’s Expo Exposed: A WHNT NEWS 19 Taking Action Follow-Up

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Better Business Bureau of North Alabama and the Huntsville Police Department say a Mobile businesswoman has collected vendor fees for expos that never happen.

WHNT News 19 brought you a report in June about Shelia White, an event coordinator who heads Expositions & Festivals, Inc. and the Alabama Women’s Chamber of Commerce. White, aka Lia Johnson, has been making --and breaking-- promises to host a Women’s Expo where vendors can purchase booth space to showcase their business. Although the BBB and Huntsville Police aren’t buying it, several local businesses have. Unfortunately, it’s cost them a lot.  Some businesses paid upwards of $1,500.

The BBB says more than 17 businesses have had dealings with Shelia White.  Several have paid money up front to be part of events advertised at the VBC, Big Spring Park and most recently Bridge Street Town Centre.  But numerous complaints have tarnished White’s business and reputation.

“With the BBB, there has been an F in place for the company that started this,” says Michelle Mason, President of the North Alabama BBB.

These vendors aren’t the only ones who have a beef with Shelia.  Toby Campbell, one of White’s former employees, says he was fed up with all the lies.  He served as the Executive Director for the Alabama Women’s Chamber of Commerce and says he was promised things he never saw, like business cards and a company phone. Campbell also wanted to make it a top priority to give unhappy customers their money back.  But he says White never gave him the tools or the money to do that.  He resigned from the position and is now urging vendors to contact local authorities.

We asked Campbell what kind of pattern he continually witnessed from White.  "Deception," said Campbell.  "The reason I say that is I was promised things, that never came true, just like the vendors."

Huntsville Police have demanded White pay back the unhappy vendors.  Instead of taking HPD’s warnings seriously, White instead tried to set up another event to take place in the Rocket City.  The City of Huntsville recently denied White a permit to hold her expo at Big Spring Park.  Bridge Street management also denied White’s event application.

WHNT News 19 called Shelia White and asked her about her business practices.  She tells us she plans on securing the event with a new venue and she will notify attendees and her paid vendors.  In the meantime, Huntsville Police say Shelia has until August 2nd to pay people back.  If she doesn’t, she could face criminal charges.

Vendors and businesses are urged to ask Shelia White for a full refund and notify the BBB and HPD if she makes good on the refund.