Atlanta resident Barceneas Cosby is the spokesman for some of the workers, who hired Atlanta law firm Forrest B. Johnson & Associates to represent them.
Cosby said Marietta-based Everything Staffing and its Stone Mountain subcontractor, Black Sparta, LLC, promised high-paying construction jobs in Columbia, Mo.
“I’m out $7,500,” Cosby said about tools he bought for his co-workers and other expenses during the 1,000-mile round trip. “I’m out of a job. I’ll take any job right now.”
He said the two-year job assignments in Columbia were not properly vetted before the crew left Marietta.
“They were supposed to be prefab homes, but when we got there, they were stick-built homes,” Cosby said about the job site, called Aspen Heights.
Cosby said the contractor’s owner, Ruben Jones, whose phone is no longer accepting calls, already churned through two crews.
“When we went to work the first day, they gave us a project that was half done because another company had started it and messed it up,” Cosby said.
He said that was the reason behind the urgency of the hiring process, in which the workers were hired the same day they applied at the agency, rushed to the site during an overnight drive and told to begin work when they got there at dawn.
“She said go home and pack because we’re leaving at 2,” Cosby said about agency co-owner Christina Wilkins. “I packed for two years because she said this was a two-year contract.”
Wilkins said she and co-owner Bobby Terence Blanks were taken in by Jones, who gave them the rush as well.
“Normally, we would charge for public records screening and processing, but it wasn’t required for this because he said he didn’t care about criminal history,” the Marietta resident said. “As long as there were no child molestation charges, he didn’t care.”
Wilkins said Jones told her he had an emergency situation.
“He said he had a crew that quit on him and he needed 30 guys. That was a lie,” she said. “Once he got there, the superintendent, Kawann Watson, fired Ruben. He had fired Ruben prior to bringing the second crew there.”
The agency was also duped by Jones’ job description, Wilkins said.
“(The workers) thought it was pre-framing. But when they got there it was just a pile of material,” she said.
Not only are the workers out the $1 per square foot or $1,000 per week they were promised, the agency suffered a setback as well, Wilkins said.
“I can’t even tell you,” she said about the estimated losses. “It’s a two-year contract. We get 20 percent. We did it in reverse of most companies that get all the money up front.”
The agency is a referral service, Wilkins said, while the contractor was the actual employer.
“We don’t hire them. They’re independent contractors. We don’t get any money at all until they go to work. They’re hired by Black Sparta. We’re not responsible for paying any fees,” she said.
Wilkins said it was not considered unusual for laborers to make a 500-mile trek for work.
“There are not a lot of people hiring now. So for freelance framers, there’s not a lot of work. They’re willing to travel,” she said.
Stuart Watkins, spokesman for the Austin, Texas-based construction company, said in a statement it was not involved in any scam.
“Aspen Heights is researching the facts and details pertaining to the group of individuals who responded to a staffing agency inquiry unaffiliated with Aspen Heights. This particular issue is directly between a staffing agency, construction subcontractor and its employees,” he said.