Byron Leland "Earl" Stewart, owner and operator of the now defunct business Central Florida Knife and Tool, is the subject of this report. CFK&T was an online retailer of various custom, handmade, and factory knives as well as many other tools and accessories. Mr. Stewart was an authorized dealer of Mad Dog Knives, which are hand-made in Prescott, AZ by Kevin "Mad Dog" McClung and Mad Dog Labs. These knives generally cost between $300 and $900 and are constantly on backorder due to their high demand.
About a year ago, Mr. Stewart set up an internet BB called Knifeforums.com. It seems that it may have been his plan to use this site as a staging point for an enormous online business scam. "Earl" used the forums as a place to schmooze with potential customers and to effectively corner the internet market for Mad Dog Knives. Little did anyone know that he was selling and promising many times more knives to his growing customer base than he could possibly deliver in any reasonable time-frame. Unfortunately, it seems that he never even informed Mad Dog Labs of many of those orders. The REAL kicker here is that the whole time, he was collecting $100-150 deposits for every knife he sold.
In December of 1999, Byron Leland "Earl" Stewart shut down Central Florida Knife and Tool and began cancelling his customers' orders. He repeatedly assured his customers on the forums that no one would lose any money. Then he all but vanished. A few people have received refunds, but for the most part his customers were hung out to dry, so to speak.
Mr. Stewart managed to collect over $22,000 in "deposits" from us and seems to be very reluctant, and in some cases unwilling, to return the money he collected.
I am one of Mr. Stewart's former customers. He still owes me several hundred dollars and has been ignoring my attempts to contact him. Approximately two weeks ago, he contacted me and through email, we came to an agreement that he would send me merchandise as reimbursement. He told me my merchandise would arrive by two-day Priority Mail. That was a week and a half ago and he has stopped replying to my emails since then.
For more details, I direct you to:
Go to the Mad Dog Knives forum, click on the "search" link and type the name, "Stewart" in the key-word field. This search should locate about 21 posts, most of which regard the Central Florida Knife & Tool fiasco and Mr. Stewart's underhanded dealings.