Lawyer for Santa Rosa spray tanner in Miss America dispute: 'She has done nothing wrong'

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A Santa Rosa spray tanner and Miss America pageant sponsor who is the subject of a fraud investigation spanning two coasts settled unrelated business violations Monday, her lawyer said.

Kelly Richardson, the owner of Sonoma Tanning, paid $1,800 in back taxes to the state Board of Equalization to reinstate her state seller’s permit, attorney Evan Zelig said.

She was cited earlier this year for selling a pair of earrings from her Old Redwood Highway salon while her retail permit was suspended, he said.

With the payment, a judge dismissed two misdemeanor counts against Richardson and her permit was to be reissued, Zelig said.

“It was a very minor thing,” Zelig said. “Just a matter of paying some back money.”

Richardson, 36, who landed a lucrative sponsorship with the Atlantic City, N.J., pageant, made headlines this month when other salon owners across the country accused her of reneging on business contracts.

The salon owners said they paid Richardson advance fees up to $1,000 each for a chance to spray-tan pageant contestants and trade-show attendees using Richardson’s B. Bronz tanning products.

The salon owners allege that days before the pageant, which ended Sept. 13, their deals were canceled and they were denied thousands of dollars in refunds, a charge Richardson denies.

They banded together, airing their unhappiness on social media and complaining to Sonoma County detectives, who have since launched an investigation. A property crimes sergeant said detectives would review credit card and PayPal accounts.

Many salon owners said they were concerned about personal and financial information they shared with Richardson because she has a criminal record that includes forgery and identity theft.

But Richardson denied any intent to defraud the salon owners, saying she was forced to cancel some contracts because of lack of pageant space and because some contractors didn’t pass background checks.

She was planning to refund money when the salon owners filed credit card disputes, tying up the system, her lawyer said.

Her lawyer called the allegations “totally inaccurate,” fueled in part by fears about her past history. She served her time in prison and has led a law-abiding life ever since, he said.

“I have no doubt that when the investigators actually look at the evidence they will see she has done nothing wrong,” Zelig said.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312, paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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