CORPUS CHRISTI (CN) - Three recruits traveled thousands of miles to join a South Texas oilfield trucking company that swindled them into working "essentially for free," the workers claim in Federal Court.
Derrek Bailey, Heidi Haas and Jadidiah Peltier sued Black Horizon Energy Transport and its mother-son owners Rhonda Jameson and Alexander D. Mackin.
Bailey and Haas are Idaho residents; Peltier lives in Northern California.
Bailey claims in the lawsuit that Mackin persuaded him in May 2013 to leave Idaho with promises of a $150,000 salary, plus benefits and housing, to serve as Black Horizon's executive vice president.
Mackin won Haas over by promising her $72,000 a year to be Black Horizon's office manager and she left Idaho for the company's Odem, Texas headquarters, Haas says in the complaint.
Peltier was Black Horizon's last recruit of the three: Mackin hired him in August 2013 on a 30 percent commission basis, and agreed to provide him with benefits and housing, according to the complaint.
But the workers say their wages were just this side of nonexistent.
"To date, neither Mr. Bailey, Ms. Haas nor Mr. Peltier have been properly paid," the complaint states. "Mr. Bailey has only received $1,000 in wage compensation; Ms. Haas has only received $750 in wage compensation and Mr. Peltier has only received $1,000 in wage compensation since they began working for Black Horizon."
And the plaintiffs claim that the housing that Mackin provided was "horrendous."
"Specifically, the housing that was provided was (a) former unrenovated pizza restaurant," the complaint states. "There were no bedrooms and no appropriate bathing facilities. All employees, male and female, were literally forced to camp in the building and could not bathe except by using a sink."
The workers say that after traveling thousands of miles they had few resources and were forced to stay in the restaurant, which served as Black Horizon's headquarters and housing.
Finally, the workers say, they had enough.
"After months of trying to work out not being paid with Mr. Mackin and suffering
with horrendous living conditions, Mr. Bailey, Ms. Haas and Mr. Peltier and the other employees went home with the approval of Mr. Mackin and their employment terminated," according to the complaint.
The workers seek punitive damages for federal wage law violations, infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of contract and RICO violations, claiming Mackin "used the United States mail and telephone wires to transmit fraudulent communications."
They also want front and back pay, earned wages and benefits and treble damages.
They are represented by Gay Gilson of Corpus Christi.
Mackin told Courthouse News on Monday that contrary to the lawsuit's claims, he started the business with Derrek Bailey and Heidi Haas.
"The three of us started a business with very little money. We struggled for months trying to make it work, after which I fired Heidi for reasons detrimental to the company. This enraged Derrek, her boyfriend, causing him to do all this," Mackin wrote in an email.
He would not elaborate on why he fired Haas.