Home Courts Partners fighting over gift shop for Jehovah’s Witnesses

Partners fighting over gift shop for Jehovah’s Witnesses

Photo from BestLife Gifts’ website.

A Jehovah’s Witness who partnered with a couple he trusted based on their shared faith is suing them over ownership of a religion-themed gift shop in Orange County.

Greg Holland of Victoria, British Columbia, claims in a federal lawsuit that Thomas and Nanci Matos of Pine Bush, coerced him into relinquishing his property.

“Through deceit and intimidation, the Matoses stole Holland’s investment and interest in Ministry Ideaz LLC,” the complaint states. “The Matoses then used Ministry Ideaz’s inventory and cash to establish their own competing business.”

Holland went through a “disfellowship” in January, for his conduct, Thomas Matos replied, and is no longer a Jehovah’s Witness. “As far as all the other charges, they are baseless and we look forward to disproving them in court.”

Holland started Ministry Ideaz in 2002 as an online business from his home in Ecuador. The company makes and sells leather and paper products – such as Bible covers, notebooks and calendars – for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Last year, he decided to open a store in the U.S. He met the Matoses through a mutual friend and, “based on his trust of fellow members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, agreed to partner with them.”

Holland held 90 percent of the New York company, and the Matoses owned the rest.

Holland claims he wired more than $40,000 to the Matoses to set up the store and then another $190,000 to cover expenses for nine months. He shipped $250,000 in inventory from Ecuador that he hoped would sell at retail for $750,000.

In May 2017, they opened a storefront in Valley Supreme Plaza in Pine Bush, 25 miles from the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters.

Business was good. The store sold $38,837 in goods in the first month and another $250,000 in credit card transactions over the following four months.

But Holland became estranged from his wife in late 2017, having engaged in an extramarital affair. His wife moved to Canada with their two children.

Holland describes the Matoses as his “surrogate parents.” They offered emotional support during his marital troubles and assured him that he need not worry about the business because it was in their good hands.

At the same time, Holland alleges, the Matoses were trying to persuade his wife to divorce him, seek sole custody of their children and “extract a financial settlement.”

The Matoses, the complaint states, were already “secretly scheming to steal Holland’s entire investment.”

They registered BestLife Gifts LLC in February, using the Ministry Ideaz address.

On March 2, the Matoses held a “special meeting” at their home and decided to dissolve the company. Holland, the majority owner, claims he was not notified.

Thomas Matos emailed him on the same day, stating, “We are severing ties!”

“The store sign has been removed, the lease has ended, utilities, phones and internet cancelled,” the message said.

“There has been far to (sic) much pressure on Nanci and I being in business with you,” the message stated. “Being associated with Ministry Ideaz has become a liability that has already damaged us.”

To this day, according to the July 25 lawsuit, BestLife operates from the same storefront as Ministry Ideaz, uses the same telephone numbers and sells the same inventory.

On March 5, the complaint states, Thomas Matos threatened to reveal Holland’s marital problems to the customers he had cultivated for 16 years and to stop processing about 1,000 online orders.

Matos allegedly offered a deal. He would not follow through on the threats if Holland signed over his entire interest in Ministry Ideaz, agreed to dissolve the company and relinquished the equipment and inventory.

Holland says he signed the one-page agreement, “fearing that the Matoses would ruin his livelihood and his relationship with his family and his church.”

Holland reconciled with his wife, moved to Canada and “began to grasp the extent of the Matoses’ deceit.”

He is demanding $300,000 in damages, and he wants the court to declare the dissolution deal null and void and to bar the Matoses and BestLife from selling inventory and assets.

Holland is represented by Jack A. Gordon, Joshua B. Katz and Luis F. Calvo of Kent, Beatty & Gordon LLP in Manhattan.

14 COMMENTS

  1. So when Jewish, Atheist, Hindu, Catholic, or Muslim business partners have legal difficulties and sue why are their religious affiliation NOT published? Sounds like the writer has an agenda

    Bob Smith was arrested for DUI

    Jane Foe was sued for child support.

    Joe Public, a Jehovah’s Witness, was ticketed for running a red light.

      • Where? where is that in the bible? if its in the bible…THEN the jws have a “strict rule” regarding it…that ALL christians should have…
        ( i know you dont plan on showing that from the bible, so I dont know why Im even asking)

        • 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 tells us why not to go to court against a brother and also shows that things like this are nothing new in the Christian congregation. Sure, it shouldn’t happen but sometimes it does.

          • Beautifully put, Brother. Thank you for your reply. I had no idea about this issue with business but was looking for gifts for the little ones in my congregation. A welcomed education so will just keep making blankets for them.

        • What Sansa said is largely correct. Check the Elders manual as shown in the court exhibits of the Australian Royal Commission, Case Number 29.

          From the “Shepherd the Flock of God” Jehovah’s Witnesses Elders’ book, page 133:

          “Taking Brothers to Court

          22. At 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, the apostle Paul gave strong counsel that Christians should not take other Christians before secular courts to settle personal disputes that should be settled with the help of the congregation elders. —w973/15 pp.21-22; w8611/15 p.20; g832/8 pp.13-15; w7311/15 pp.703-704. ˙ If an individual ignores God’s Word on this matter, it may affect his congregation privileges. ˙ There is no difference between taking an individual brother or sister to court and taking to court a corporation whose owners are all Jehovah’s Witnesses. The spirit of 1 Corinthians 6: 1-8 would be violated by relying on the secular courts to settle business disputes among corporations that are made up entirely of brothers.”

          Then the book goes on to describe certain legal situations in which it is acceptable to take a fellow Jehovah’s Witness to court:

          “Getting a divorce decree, child custody and support, alimony.

          Obtaining insurance compensation. If a person suffers loss or is injured in or by an automobile owned by a spiritual brother, it might be necessary legally to sue the brother in order to obtain compensation from the brother’s insurer.

          Being listed among creditors in bankruptcy procedures.

          Probating wills.

          Certain countersuits. For example, if a worldly creditor sues a brother, it might be necessary for the brother, for his own protection, to file a countersuit even though spiritual brothers may be included in the action.

          If a brother takes legal action against another baptized Witness, it would not be a violation of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 for the one being sued to defend himself or to countersue. This is true whether the matter was first taken before the elders or not.”

          Link to pdf: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/WAT.0003.001.0001.pdf

  2. I know each of these people and this entire situation was utterly predictable. What is more “the hiding places from the wind” in Pine Bush have once again turned a blind eye to fraud because the people involved were paid up with the right people. What a wretched cesspool of corruption.

    • EXACTLY! there’s no way, these people could be rolling forward and looking like brothers, and not be obviously being dealt with properly….First, they were using the imaging of the organization. then they stopped. then theres the whole, using the brothers as a pillar for their faith issue…Jesus got mad, ONE TIME…when was that? when people were trying to use his people as a means to make profit. he didnt say, “let me assist you in moving these tables to the outside”

      He made a rope, and flipped the tables and beat people. they killed him three days later.

      It wasnt about “being outside the kingdom hall and its ok to fleece the brothers”

      Listen, if the organization is giving products away, how is it ok for you and I to make for-profit covers for a FREE product? Then instead of donations going to make MORE free products, they go in my pocket!?!

      How is that not equal to Judus, taking money out the box?

  3. apostates are so blind with hate for Jws that they actually think the WBTS creates the buttons, and covers and stores like this. And now they are mocking it as such.
    What they seem to not grasp, is that the people running these stores are just as hard headed as THEY were. But to them, they think all Jws are “brainwashed” and following “the evil watchtower” and all that crap. Well Greg Holland shows one thing…no one is forced to do ANYTHING. and people will sit in the hall and not adhere to the bible, or its examples pertaining to many things, such as greed. All while dressed nice, going in service, being in so called positions, etc.
    It also shows how the people who are claiming to be apostates (someone that is an ex jw) actually have NEVER been jws, but in fact are just people that are atheists, lgbt people, formerly married to jws, or grew up in a house with parents that were. for if they were actually ex jws, they would obviously know that Jws HAVE no bookstores. But they are typically the type that were kids…playing in the hall, sleeping, dating all through highschool, and bolted when in their 20s. If they were baptized at an early age, then they were diss’d.
    Later, they run to the internet and talk like they were ex jws with all this deep history and knowledge. they claim to be pioneers and ex elders. Ex pethelites, on and on. But their dialect gives them away.

    • I think the point here is that these people are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not sure what this has to do with Apostates!
      No one believes these shennanigans have anything to do with the watchtower at all!
      They are, however, Jehovah’s witnesses and shows that there are good and bad in any and all organizations.

  4. We’ve been to the store. Like the products.
    Seems to me that the owners & ex-owners need to work this out equally and it’s really no one else’s business.

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