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`ROSES AND RAINBOWS' NO MORE

Last February I sent a poem I had written into the National Arts Society in Pass Christian, Miss. On March 28, the society sent me a letter of congratulations telling me my poem had been selected to be published in the book "Roses and Rainbows."

The letter said the book would be typeset this summer. It described the book as 81/2x11, perfectly bound, richly illustrated and printed on fine milled paper so it would last for generations. I could purchase the book for $25.On April 3, I sent the society $25. In September I wrote the society a letter asking when I could expect to receive the book. The letter was returned unopened. A sticker on the front said "Refused. Out of business. Return to Sender."

I want my money back! That's cheating. That's defrauding through the mail. The society should refund my money. - E.T., Salt Lake City.

Yes, Virginia, it is cheating. It is defrauding. And yes, the National Arts Society should refund your money. Unfortunately, your problem isn't as simple as that.

Jim Stratz, owner of National Arts Society, isn't anywhere to be found. According to the Mississippi Office of Consumer Protection, he disappeared virtually overnight after the U.S. Postal Service issued a restraining order against him on May 29.

Needless to say, Stratz left no forwarding address.

The Office of Consumer Protection has approximately 160 complaints on file against him. They allege that Stratz didn't send out books that had already been paid for.

According to office, he had published poetry books in the past, the last one in 1989.

He begged the Office of Consumer Protection for time after it wrote him a letter demanding that he make restitution to consumers who had complained. Then his attorney called to say he was going to file bankruptcy.

He did not file bankruptcy.

What he did do was apparently take the money (or whatever was left of it) and run.

The Office of Consumer Protection will accept complaints on the case, even though it's hands are tied because the chief suspect is missing.

Chances are you'll never get your money back, but if sending in a complaint will help assuage your anger, mail it to Office of Consumer Protection, P.O. Box 22947, Jackson, Miss. 39225.