woman speaking with caption 'Am I Going to Prison Today... I'll know in two hours' (l) hands in cuffs behind bars (c) woman speaking with caption 'Thank you for the support! We will need it because we are coming back for another hearing in a few weeks' (r)

sakhorn/Shutterstock @tiffanycianci/TikTok @tiffanycianci/TikTok (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

‘I kinda hope they do’: Woman says a company is trying to jail her for volunteering with special needs kids. It gets worse

‘I thought I had seen the worst of the “justice system” but this is beyond surreal.’

 

Grace Fowler

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Posted on Jan 12, 2024   Updated on Jan 12, 2024, 8:07 am CST

A franchise owner posted a viral video saying the parent company is trying to arrest her and her husband with the support of a “billionaire-backed private equity firm.”

Tiffany Cianci (@tiffanycianci) has reached over 317,700 views and 31,200 likes on her TikTok by Friday.

In the clip, Cianci says she used to be a franchisee of a small business called The Little Gym, which was taken over by Unleashed Brands in 2021 after being unable to recover from losses brought on by the pandemic.

According to Cianici, Unleashed Brands tried to force the franchisees to sign new contracts that would roll back protections granted in their existing contracts, which were valid for the next nine to 10 years.

As president of her labor association, Cianci, along with the other franchisees, decided not to sign the new contracts. In return, Unleashed Brands fought back.

Cianci says she has been fighting Unleashed Brands, backed by the private equity firm Seidler Equity, for the last year and a half. She says they filed multiple lawsuits against her, terminated her small business, and “have reigned what we have come to call ‘unmitigated lawfare,’ which is legal warfare.”

Unleashed Brands was found guilty of defaming Cianci in order to deny her “legal representation and legal counsel,” the TikToker says. She believes she is being targeted in “an effort to destroy the union” she is president of and to make an example of her in hopes the other franchisees will stop fighting back. 

“What I can tell you is this has not worked,” she adds. Cianci says hundreds of small franchises have filed lawsuits against Unleashed Brands. Other franchises that have filed are Premier Martial Arts and Urban Air Adventure Park.  

In the meantime, however, Cianci says the company is trying to have her incarcerated on the basis that her volunteer work teaching music and sign language to babies and children with special needs supposedly violates a court order.

“They are now asking a judge to interpret their noncompete as being anything related to children,” Cianci says. 

She claims the company is doing this so she can’t work, pay bills, and “obviously not be able to pay for lawyers to keep fighting them.” 

“They’ve spent almost 9 million dollars,” she adds, “and they have not won a single penny.”

@tiffanycianci Replying to @AvainMetal no jail today! We have to come back for another hearing in a few weeks. Thank you all for the support. #fightprivateequity #UnleashedBrands #Seidler #savesmallbusinesses #PrivateEquity #fuckunleashedbrands #thelittlegym #premiermartialarts #savesmallbusinesses #savemainstreet #smallbusiness @Stella_Jade @fartcakesmuggler @Tony @Tripp @Real Wicked Witch of the West ♬ original sound – TiffanyCianci

Just last week, Cianci posted another viral video before arriving at her court hearing. Her video has reached over 1.4 million views and 99,000 likes. 

Cianci says Unleashed Brands is also trying to arrest her husband, a federal attorney, “because he is not controlling me and forcing me to stop.”

“I am fully prepared to go to jail,” she says. “We have people ready to take care of our kids, and we are going to court.” 

“Please let me show the world that this private equity firm has gone so far,” she says she wants to tell the judge. 

“And today we’re gonna find out if they can send me to jail,” she adds, “and I kinda hope they do.”

If they do, Cianci says it would show the Senate and the politicians she’s meeting with “what private equity is capable of, and just maybe we can finish changing the laws I’m working on.” 

@tiffanycianci #Seidler #PrivateEquity backed #UnleashedBrands has asked a judge to throw my husband and I in #prison by lying through their teeth in false affidavits. Court is this morning. Hopefully ill see you guys in a few hours. #fightprivateequity #savesmallbusinesses #fuckunleashedbrands #savemainstreet #smallbusiness #smallbusinesscheck #smallbusinesstiktok #unanimous @Stella_Jade @fartcakesmuggler @Tony @Tripp @Real Wicked Witch of the West ♬ original sound – TiffanyCianci

After her court hearing, in her previously referenced video, Cianci said, “Today we had a judge that was good.”

“She cared about the detail-oriented facts of the case,” she adds, “and she did not put me in jail.”

Everything has been pushed back, and Cianci says she has her next hearing on Feb. 9. She says she is thankful for the extra time she has to raise money for her legal GoFundMe, which is linked in her TikTok account bio.

Cianci told the Daily Dot through direct message, “At the end of the day you have a giant, mega conglomerate, private equity firm, trying to destroy small businesses and using me as the example to scare them.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Unleashed Brands via email.

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*First Published: Jan 12, 2024, 9:00 am CST