How do I get money from a shady business?
June 25, 2007 6:32 AM   Subscribe

A shady business, a surprise firing, thousands of dollars up in the air. What have I gotten myself into?

A friend of mine, about a month ago, offered to get me a job at the company he was working for. I start grad school in the fall, and needed some quick money. I was told it would be a telemarketing job, and the easiest job I'd ever had. For the last month I sold "debt relief" in what had been a remarkably easy job, though the "product" made me very uncomfortable. Awful stuff, but I need the money pretty badly right about now. Long story short, the guys who run our office have been accused of running a second company out of the same office and, last week, we all received letters informing us that our employment was terminated, and that we all might be sued for theft of leads.

Now, the way that compensation worked at this company, I was paid the following month for any account that was successfully started (first payment received). I had roughly 1500 dollars "in" as well as an expected 1000 dollar bonus for my performance in my first month. I expected another 500-1000 dollars in contracts to be paid in the next few days, and dozens and dozens of clients in my pipeline. I can only imagine, knowing the business ethics of this company, that they're either canceling my contracts, or transferring them to other reps. What recourse do I have with this company? Is small claims court a viable option? I'm on the East Coast, and the company is on the West, if that matters.

Also, I never signed any kind of non-competition agreement, and also did not transfer or steal leads in any way. I simply busted my butt for the company I was working for. To make matters more confusing, however, the guys who ran this office have offered me a job with another company, doing the exact same thing. I don't even want to do this job any longer, was seriously considering quiting, but just want to be compensated for the work I did do. These guys claim they will "take care of me" monetarily, out of their own pockets, but that doesn't really reassure me much. Ugh.

Any questions can be directed at
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
well i sure as hell wouldn't take the new job. i don't know what your legal recourse is, but i would gather all your paperwork and documentation, and find a lawyer.

i don't think you could be sued--who is doing the suing? i would imagine this is their way of making you want to cut your losses and walk away now rather than get embroiled in a lawsuit and lose more money.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:47 AM on June 25, 2007

Cue the chorus:

"Lawyer Up!"
posted by mds35 at 6:49 AM on June 25, 2007

Not worth lawyering up. Chances are that the arseholes that ran the company don't have any money anyway. (I speak from experience, several "telesales" companies used to be my clients.) OP, Dude, if you can sell that shit -- go sell fucking cars for a living. The jobs are just as easy to get and just as ethically questionable, but there's at least some real money and not so much snake oil behind the whole business. If you can sell "debt relief", you can sell ANYTHING, just go do it. Just find something that's at least remotely honest so that your employer won't screw you.
posted by SpecialK at 6:52 AM on June 25, 2007

Definitely sounds like a scam to me. Maybe they don't have the money and this is their way of getting you to work for free. I would find a lawyer (any friends of yours have lawyers?) to write a letter for you, threatening prosecution if they don't pay you. After that, I don't think there's much you could do. Actually going to court would cost MUCH more than they owe you, so it's not worth it.

Also - I wouldn't work for the new company. I would even probably consider contacting the police.
posted by kdern at 7:00 AM on June 25, 2007

It sounds like the accounts you were starting may have been "directed" to local management's new company. If that is the case, you are going to have a hard time getting money from your employer, especially because they were somewhat shady to begin with. You could take them to small claims court and prevail, but then you have to actually collect, which is much more difficult.

Your best bet to actually get money in your pocket is to get the local guys to "take care of you" up front (more likely from accounts they stole from your employer than their "own pockets") before you start with them. They obviously want you on board for their new scam so they might pay up. Quit the new job whenever the hell you want, immediately if that suits you.

In a non-legal sense, I would guess that you've already been working for this new company, the new company is where the money is and the new company is the one that actually owes you this money.
posted by probablysteve at 7:09 AM on June 25, 2007

I second contacting the police and getting out now. They've scammed you once. My guess is it's a test to see if they can really screw you.

It sounds like you do have a legitimate claim against them, but my guess is that they are savvy enough to make collecting on that claim very difficult and very expensive. Your energy might be better spent finding a honest job.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:31 AM on June 25, 2007

You seem to be living in a David Mamet play. I'd get a lawyer, if only to deflect a lawsuit if anyone tries to file against you. You may not be able to collect anything from the shady people if they've managed to hide their assets.
posted by oaf at 7:40 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would tell them that you would love to work for them again as soon as they pay you for your previous work. Although unlikely, it may get them to pay you or pay you something. They after I got paid, I would then decide if this is something I wanted to keep doing.

What is your friend's take on this?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:51 AM on June 25, 2007

hang on to that letter you got! if they're threatening to sue you my guess is that means they know they are up to something really shady and that you can get them in trouble for it, and they're trying to scare you off. don't let them. do you have offer letter, record of hours worked, time sheets, anything official? they owe you that money.
posted by citron at 8:19 AM on June 25, 2007

2nding Johnny Gunn.

And that you're stumbled into a David Mamet play.

Don't let them talk you into doing another moment's work.
posted by desuetude at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2007

The "product" made me very uncomfortable. Awful stuff, but I need the money pretty badly right about now.

People who scam people will scam you. You scammed people, and now have been scammed out of the money you were supposed to be paid for it. When you are dishonest or unscrupulous in front of someone -- no matter how understandable your reasons -- he feels much better about being dishonest or unscrupulous towards you. I am sorry you paid money that you maybe needed for rent to learn this lesson, but it is a very important one.

It is worth what you paid for it. Profit from it.
posted by Methylviolet at 8:59 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

JohnnyGunn gave my advice. I would pull a feint, tell them after payment you'll show up for the new job all bright and cheery. Don't show up for the new job.
posted by geoff. at 9:04 AM on June 25, 2007

If I were you, I would cut my losses, walk away, and not worry about it. It costs money to sue people (filing fees and legal fees), and so it doesn't make sense to sue people who have no money. It doesn't sound like you have any money, so it wouldn't make sense for them to sue you.

If you're worried, then go hire an attorney. But expect, for a decent attorney, to have to put down $1500 as a retainer, just to have the attorney available if you need him/her.
posted by jayder at 9:12 AM on June 25, 2007

State labor board. STAT.
posted by Carnage Asada at 9:13 AM on June 25, 2007

i don't think you could be sued--who is doing the suing? i would imagine this is their way of making you want to cut your losses and walk away now rather than get embroiled in a lawsuit and lose more money.

and what she said.
posted by Carnage Asada at 9:16 AM on June 25, 2007

No way you could be sued. I would definitely play nice for a couple days, and continue to ask for the money. "I'll stay at this job - I luv you guys, but my gramma's heart operation - I need that money!!! :-)

Then bail.
posted by xammerboy at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2007

What is "debt relief" in this context? Is this that scam where people think they're going to be given a loan of, say, $10,000 if they just send your company $250?

If you've knowingly participated in ripping people off in this kind of scam, count your blessings that you aren't in prison for it, and consider reporting your former employers to the authorities (try the postal inspector of your state if they were receiving funds through the U.S. mail). Forget trying to collect this dirty money, as profiting from others' misfortune is immoral.
posted by hazyjane at 5:47 AM on June 26, 2007

« Older Memory Foam vs Pocket Springs - Which one too...   |   Where can I get Jelly Babies in the Twin Cities? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.