La Jolla piano store owner charged with 14 felonies

District attorney's office files fraud charges against Bird Rock piano shop owner

The owner of Bird Rock-based Schroeder Piano has been charged with 14 felony counts that include fraud, grand theft and elder abuse (the later charge stemming from the fact that many of his alleged victims were at least 65 years old).

Longtime La Jollan Thomas Hull, the first dean of UC San Diego’s Revelle College and one of the alleged victims listed in the complaint filed by the district attorney’s office, said he and his late wife placed a piano on consignment with store owner Peter Schroeder in 2009, after Hull’s wife was diagnosed with cancer.

Hull said the piano was a Steinway grand Model L built in 1928 or 1929 — an heirloom that belonged to his wife’s mother, which he said had been independently appraised at $38,000-$40,000.

“At the time, he said he was going to ask $35,000 for it,” Hull said, adding Schroeder later told him he had received a down payment of 10 percent on the piano and would pay Hull the rest of the money when he received it. Hull said he was later told the sale fell through and the down-payment was returned, though Hull said Schroeder never returned his piano.

“We kind of let it slide for a while,” Hull said. “When my wife died in February and my daughter was here I was trying to wrap up some things, so I went down to the (store) and luckily caught him in his place of business, which is unusual.”

Hull said Schroeder told him he had sold the piano for $13,000 — though he would have to confirm the figure and get back to him. But Schroeder never did, Hull said.

Returning to the store again, Hull said he was told by a woman named Lisa (whom Hull said is Schroeder’s daughter) that he is “an honest man” and would pay him.

In June, Hull received a cashier’s check for $2,000. Hull said Schroeder’s wife told another reporter that amount constituted 25 percent of what he was owed.

“I’m assuming from that, that he’s trying to claim he sold the piano for $13,000 and that $8,000 was my share … but I’ve never heard anymore from her or never had anymore contact with him,” Hull said. “I’ve written a number of letters to him and they all come back undeliverable. I’ve not been able to get in touch with him.”

In September, Jesse Jacobs, a pastor at San Diego-based Grace Church, told 10 News Schroeder also never paid the church for the sale of its piano.

Lance Pelky, one of Hull’s earlier victims, who also left a piano on consignment with Schroeder, said he was eventually compensated for his piano after he took his story to KUSI-TV’s consumer troubleshooter, Michael Turko. Pelky said he has nevertheless continued to lead the charge to expose Schroeder’s practices.

“I can track one of the victims back as far as 19 years. This isn’t someone who maybe ran out of money. It’s my feeling there are tons more victims out there and we need to strike while the iron is hot.

“He never presents a bill of sale that I’m aware of,” Pelky added. “Not only is the customer getting screwed, if that’s happening, but what about the Board of Equalization and the IRS … the taxes?”

Hull said he’d like his wife’s piano back, or to be fairly compensated, though doesn’t expect that to happen. “If somehow he and his wife and daughter are all put out of business and couldn’t come back in six months under another name or corporation and start the same stuff all over again, I would be fairly well satisfied,” Hull said.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood said Schroeder’s next court appearance is Jan. 13, Dept 29 in San Diego Superior Court, 220 W. Broadway.

Anyone who feels they have been similarly scammed by Schroeder Piano can phone Greenwood in the elder abuse department of the San Diego County District Attorney’s office at (619) 531-4300.

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