Scammed

I can’t sleep; I need to get this off my chest. 

This has been going on for about a month now, so I’ll try to keep it short: My boss has scammed me out of three paychecks and has bailed out of the city, emptying the office out of all valuables, and not answering any calls or text messages.

Longer version:
Back in late Jan, my boss Peter came to me one morning saying we needed to talk. His wife had filed for divorce, he said, and in the process the court had frozen all his accounts, including, not the business account under The Mejia Group (the company that officially owned the magazine), but the Money Market account that was linked to it and that fueled it whenever it needed more funds. He said that even though the account was under his father’s name as well, since he was a beneficiary, the court had been able to freeze it as well. He also said he had his lawyer working on getting that account unfrozen so he could continue working and paying us. I believed him.

The late-Jan pay period came and no check, as expected, except two days later I get a letter in the mail from my bank: the check he had paid me the previous period, mid-Jan, had bounced. I deposited that check, not to our regular checking account, but to my Highmoon Media Productions account, then transfering to the regular checking. Thank G-d the money that transfered was ok, but when the check bounced, it left my business account at -$500, effectively screwing my company over as I am now unable to do my payroll, at least not all at once. I notified him, he apologized and said that he would  urge his lawyer to get things done faster. I believed him.

All this time I am still going to work, though the number of people showing up dwindle every couple of days or so. But we wanted to get the February issue of the two magazines (English and Spanish versions) done so we could go to print and have a product for the month. In the meantime, my boss is showing up to work, keeping us up to date on the nothing that is happening, and working really hard to get more advertising accounts for the mag. He tells us that he has managed to get one of his houses away from the divorce mess and has refinanced it, and now only needs to wait 30 days for that money. He also tells us he is bringing in an investing partner and that they only need to finish working out the details of their partnership. I believed him.

We finished the magazine and by that point it was just the Spanish edition Editor, one of the writers, the two graphic designers and myself showing up to work on a regular basis. My boss continues to try to get new accounts, even enlisting the help of a friend of his, who has a lot of contacts and manages to pull in two ad accounts.

I am skipping here the increasingly frequent times when I would arrive at the office only to find it closed. I’d call my boss or the Editor and eventually they would show up, more and more this being the Editor, not my boss. A couple of days we outright did not work at all, and two weeks ago he flat out tells me and one of the graphic designers to take the rest of the week off and go back on Tuesday, Feb 19, that this week he would get things resolved. That Tuesday I got a call from him in the morning saying not to go to work that day, but I had already made the trip to my office. The next day I didn’t go because I was feeling sick and waiting for a pick up at the house. Thursday I went to the office, found it closed, waited around until the Editor came and opened up, then left early because we had nothing to do. Friday I stayed home sick again. By now it is the third week of Feb so we have figured the magazine will be skipping February; at least we have the mag ready and need only retool it a bit to make it the March issue. He tells us throughout all this time that he is both going to print the next issue and keeping the company going. I believed him.

Yesterday I headed down to the office, from my car saw that it was closed and dark, got in touch with some of my coworkers to find out if they were coming (they weren’t) so I did a few things in that area and came back home. Throughout the day, from 8 AM until 7 PM, I continually text and call my boss, trying to get in touch with him. Nothing; unreplied text messages and a filled voicemail inbox are all I get. This morning I began the text/call combo again at 8 AM but nothing. I still head down there and again, the office dark and closed. Today I got off my car, and when I walk to the door I realize that the front desk computer is gone, and the furniture rearranged. My fear at this moment turns out to be the truth: the guy came during the weekend and emptied the office of all valuable electronic equipment, leaving behind only the furniture (which he had told us was purchased, but turns out was rented, and owed now for two months). He is now somewhere in the Orlando area, not answering his phone or email or text messages.

I decide to check with the office complex management, and there I find my boss’s father and sister, the other two officers of this corporation. So, what’s going on, I asked them. Oh boy. I won’t repeat the whole thing as I don’t want to resort to gossip, but suffice to say that my boss scammed his own father out of about $20K-$25K, plus maxed out three credit cards and left him with the debt for the office, furniture rentals, etc. Not to mention leaving his father as the one present face of the company, and the one who will have to face any and all legal actions that will be taken against the company. Oh, and from comparing stories that he told us employees and those he told his family, apparently the divorce thing is all a lie or greatly exaggerated, there was no partner, no one has ever heard of him refinancing a house, and that Money Market account that I mentioned above as being basically an overdraft fund for the business account apparently does not exist at all.

So I am now owed $3500 and am once again out of a job. I have already contacted a couple of lawyers to get their advice, and all the employess have been talking and we all will seek some unified legal action, for whatever it is worth.

This is what I get for wanting to give people the benefit of the doubt and wanting to believe, wanting to work with people when they are going through a rough patch in the hopes of pulling ahead for the benefit of all involved.

About the only good thing to have come out of all of this is that now I have a copy of Adobe Master Suite CS3 and that is sweet.

6 comments

  1. Good luck with all this. I hope it doesn’t spoil too much of your faith in humanity, but I can sure see it making you more jaded. The CS3 Master Suite probably softens the blow but cash pays the bills. (I had to eBay around to get an older copy with license transfer, then upgrade to a one of the partial CS3s in order to afford it!)

    Hopefully, since the father was screwed over as well, he can be open and actually honest with you all so that you can get something worked out. If nothing else, there’s no way this guy can claim innocence, especially after sneaking in and clearing out all the valuables! I’m not in your shoes, of course, but I’d definitely stop trying to contact the guy and instead let lawyers sort it out. Dealing directly with him, he can always try sweet talking some sort of payment plan. But a court can possibly sell his house and pay you all back.

    But definitely good luck in finding a new job! Our well wishes go out to you.

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  2. Oh man! I’m so sorry to hear… I had a feeling something was up. You seemed to be posting less frequently.

    I’m not sure what else there is to say. I wish you better fortunes in the future.

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  3. I hate to hear that Daniel. I am glad things are moving at Highmoon, but this is a big blow. If there is something I can do, let me know.

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