Oxford Baby is a new collection of baby furniture that is designed by Munir Hassain, formerly the president/owner of Munire Furniture.
Unfortunately, because of Hassain’s association with Oxford Baby and the allegations of bank fraud at his former company, we can’t recommend this brand.
In April 2016, the former chief financial officer of Munire Furniture, Norman D’Souza, pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges in federal court and sentenced to two years in federal prison. Here’s the story: Munire Furniture borrowed $17 million dollars in loans from several banks as well as $1 million dollars in a loan from Gas City, Indiana. The latter loan was part of a series of incentives Munire received from the state of Indiana to open a nursery furniture factory in Gas City, an economically depressed area of the state.
According to the Associated Press, D’Souza said Munire’s owner (Hassain) “told him to inflate sales numbers in financial statements he provided Gas City.” D’Souza told US District judge Ronnie Abrams “the owner of the company said if I gave them the real numbers, he would be very upset.”
Munire Furniture declared bankruptcy in 2014 and never repaid the majority of the $18 million in loans. The company was sold to new owners (Heritage Baby Products) that started shipping furniture again in 2015 under the Munire and Baby Cache brands. Munir Hassain left Munire Furniture during the bankruptcy and is no longer involved with Heritage Baby.
Oxford Baby is owned by M Design Village, a New Jersey limited liability corporation. Records from the state of New Jersey indicate the LLC was registered in January 2015 by Adam Wolper, an attorney who also represented Munir Hassain in the Munire Furniture bankruptcy case.
When reached by phone, Mr. Hassain told Baby Bargains his role with M Design Village is as “a designer, not an owner.” He said M Design Village is owned by a separate group of investors who he declined to identify.
Attorney Adam Wolper described Hassain’s role with M Designer Village as a creative officer without any ownership stake. Meanwhile, web sites like this list Hassain as the CEO of M Design Village—that sounds like more than a creative officer.
One other former Munire Furniture executive is also involved in M Design Village. The company’s web site is registered to Lavina Dsouza (no relation to Norman D’Souza). Dsouza’s Linkedin profile indicates she was employed by Munire Furniture as director of operations and then vice president of operations from 2001 until January 2015, at which point she moved to M Design Village.
As of this writing, Munir Hassain has not been charged with any crimes relating to the Munire Furniture fraud scheme.
In addition to selling Oxford Baby, M Design Village indicates it sells nursery furniture under the names Just Baby Products (online retailers), Soho Baby, Ozlo Baby and Classico Baby.
Given the fraud allegations aired in federal court, we can’t recommend Oxford Baby. Any allegation or association with fraud is an obvious red flag, in our opinion.
We should point out that we recommended Munire Furniture in our book for several years prior to the 2014 bankruptcy. And just because a company or individual is involved in a bankruptcy doesn’t mean we won’t recommend their future efforts in the industry. However, fraud changes the equation.
To be fair, a sworn statement by a convicted felon in federal court does NOT mean Hussain committed fraud (Hussain denies any involvement with the fraud at Munire Furniture). As of this writing, he has not been charged with a crime.
We’ll continue to monitor this situation and post updates here.
Meanwhile, we saw Oxford Baby’s furniture in person recently. Prices were similar to Munire’s previous furniture. For example, the Harlow Collection features a crib for $450 (the conversion kit to a full size bed is $200) and a six-drawer dresser for $600. The furniture is made in Vietnam.
The bottom line: as long as Hassain is associated with this company, we can’t recommend it. Rating: Not Recommended.