DENVER (CBS4) – A popular consignment store chain in the Denver metro abruptly closed this summer after dozens of sexual assault and harassment allegations surfaced on an Instagram account against one of the franchise owners, effectively putting 37 people out of work in the middle of a pandemic. CBS4 Investigates spoke exclusively with one of the people who started that Instagram account about the alleged culture of drugs, abuse, and harassment behind the scenes at Buffalo Exchange, which Denver Police, with the help of the FBI, are now investigating.
“Starting this account kind of seemed like a last resort in holding him accountable and trying to get justice for some of these survivors,” said the manager of the Instagram account, Buffalo in the Room, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
The account manager, who also previously worked at the Denver store on Broadway, started the account on July 25, and said it didn’t take long before they started receiving more than 30 messages an hour detailing stories of alleged sexual assault and harassment of several employees by one of the Colorado franchise’s owners – Todd Colletti. The account manager said the stories spanned the last 20 years.
“I knew it was bad, but I don’t think I understood how bad, and how long it’s been going on,” the account manager said. “He was a very scary, intimidating, rude, manipulative person.”
CBS4 Investigates also spoke with Veronica Nichols, who worked at the Buffalo Exchange Denver store for three years and left the company in 2018. She and other employees, who spoke over the phone to CBS4 Investigates, detailed a party culture at the store.
“If we were closing up the shop, we would all get a PBR, we would all be drinking beer as we were closing up the shop. Still on the clock, 100% drinking on the job,” Nichols said.
She and other former employees told CBS4 Investigates about wild parties Colletti regularly held in the basement of the Denver store on Broadway, where Colletti allegedly gave drugs to his employees.
“I witnessed him taking it out, on the little mirror, and cutting up the cocaine, and passing it around,” Nichols said. “Anyone who stayed later at the parties who did more of Todd’s drugs, they were afforded a certain amount of privilege, and I felt like they would stick around for longer with the company… it paid off to party with Todd.”
Nichols said Colletti harassed her while she worked there.
“He would call me lovebug, and weird little pet names like that,” Nichols said. “He would say gross things… he would tell me for instance, like, ‘oh I have some friends that would really like to meet you, they’re married, but they want a girlfriend.'”
She also recalled a store meeting when Colletti allegedly touched her inappropriately in front of her colleagues.
“Todd was sitting right next to me and he put his hand on my thigh, and I slapped his hand away,” Nichols recalled.
Nichols, the Buffalo in the Room account manager and other former employees told CBS4 the store was a special place, despite Colletti’s alleged behavior, that provided a sense of belonging, which made it difficult to leave.
“The job at Buffalo (Exchange) attracted a lot of misfits that maybe had a difficult time fitting in elsewhere, and that job provided a sense of self and belonging, and if you spoke out about anything, you risked not only losing your income, but also your chosen family and community,” explained the Instagram account manager.
Nichols said she reported Colletti’s behavior to Buffalo Exchange human resources when she left the company two years ago, yet she didn’t see any changes.
“I called that atmosphere drug fueled, and dangerous, I said it’s unsafe and it won’t be safe until Todd is removed, and I pointed out that Todd is a sexual predator, and nothing was done,” Nichols said, speaking of her exit interview.
It wasn’t until the Buffalo in the Room Instagram account gained popularity in late July that corporate Buffalo Exchange cut ties with the Colorado franchise, writing in a statement to CBS4 investigates the Colorado owners were given time to change the Colorado stores’ names, but chose not to do so. Instead, the stores in Denver and Boulder abruptly shut down for good, putting 37 people out of work without severance.
“By treating all of their employees like this, it sends a message that they’re the ones at fault somehow, like the employees are the ones to blame for speaking out about this abuse, and if they hadn’t, maybe they’d still have their jobs,” said the Buffalo in the Room account manager.
CBS4 Investigates tried calling one of the other co-owners of the Colorado franchise to learn why they made the decision to shut down the stores, but the co-owner said he could not comment while investigations were ongoing.
“It’s infuriating, to all of these employees, who are also victims of Todd’s abuse, are now out of a job in the middle of the pandemic, with no severance, and no accountability from corporate,” said the Instagram account manager.
CBS4 Investigates called Colletti’s most recent publicly listed phone number for comment, but the line was no longer in service. So, CBS4 Investigates went to his last known address.
While voices could be heard at his house, no one came to the door.
So far, no charges have been filed, and Denver and Boulder police are asking for anyone with information to come forward.
Corporate Buffalo Exchange, based in Arizona, sent the following written statement:
“The Colorado franchise stores were owned by… other investors. We did not have control over their business operations, hiring, employee documentation, or terminations, including access to employee records or paperwork such as exit interviews.
The other investors were given time to change their name and they had the right to continue the same business in the same location. We are disappointed that they chose instead to continue the closure and terminate all employees.
We were horrified by the accounts of what occurred in the Colorado stores and what happened to these victims is despicable and unacceptable. Their experiences are devastating.
We believe the victims. We hope they find justice and healing. We’re grateful that the Denver and Boulder Police Departments along with the FBI have opened investigations. We have publicly committed to cooperating with those investigations and welcome that opportunity.
Since we learned of these allegations on July 25, we have taken action to support the victims and ended our partnership with the Colorado franchise. We have extended our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) — a great resource that’s free, anonymous and confidential — to former Colorado franchise employees. Our EAP offers counseling sessions, financial and legal consulting, along with substance use counseling, and assistance/resources for many areas. We’ve also formed a partnership with Khesed Wellness, headquartered in Denver, giving employees access to mental health and wellness services with all costs covered by us. In addition, we have been in direct contact with the former franchise employees and have offered employment in any of our corporate stores.”