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Owner of Denver's Italian Institute denies scam allegations made by Parker woman

Contact7 speaks with owner of the Italian Institute
Posted: 8:54 PM, Jun 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-22 01:02:08-04
Maria Chiacchio with the Italian Institute talks to Denver 7's Tom Mustin

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DENVER -- A few weeks ago, Contact7 told you about a Parker woman who contacted us after a dispute with a company called the Italian Institute. Gretchen Mann says she put down a thousand dollars with the company then never heard from them again. The company's owner is calling the entire episode a "misunderstanding."

Maria Chiacchio says her company, the Italian Institute, is alive and well — and not in the business of ripping people off.

"Our clients are our family," she told Contact7.

The Denver company offers Italian language classes, travel packages and Italian citizenship help.

"We've been in business for eleven years. We're a very solid business and have a wonderful clientele," said Chiacchio.

But not everyone agrees. As we told you last month, Gretchen Mann paid the Italian Institute for help with her husband's application for Italian citizenship.

The Parker woman called Contact7 after saying arrivederci to a thousand dollars.

"She (Chiacchio) said she would contact me in four days with any updates on my files and I never heard from her again," Mann told Contact7 last month. "I feel obligated to report this so other people don't fall into the same trap."

We stopped by the business and were told Chiacchio was out of town. The Better Business Bureau also had questions after other complaints from customers.

"Right now the company has an 'F' rating," said Ezra Coopersmith with the BBB. "There are definitely some concerns we have with the business."

After our story aired, Chiacchio called us from Italy and agreed to share her side of the story when she returned to Colorado.

When we caught up with her, she called the episode with Mann a "misunderstanding" after a perfect storm of communication breakdowns.

"We were moving. Our phones were down for two days; just because the internet, we had some problems with the internet," she said.

Chiacchio also told us there were problems with Mann's paperwork, which caused the delays.

She says she and her six employees have handled more than 300 citizenship requests over the past few years and are handling 100 more now.

Meanwhile, Mann's credit card company has reimbursed her for her lost money. Chiacchio has a new policy to return all calls and emails within 24 hours. She also has a message for Gretchen Mann.

"I'm very sorry that this happened. I really am," she said.

The Better Business Bureau says since our story aired, Chiacchio has reached out to them. They tell us the 'F' rating for the Italian Institute has been removed, but is still a work in progress.

Mann is working with another company to help with her husband's Italian citizenship.

As for the "misunderstanding" with the Italian Institute, she told Mustin.

"Neither Ms. Chiacchio nor I misunderstood anything. I sincerely hope that after the airing of your report, Ms. Chiacchio will no longer maintain business practices which are at best incompetent and at worst unethical."