By Mike Rush
St. Louis (KSDK) - He refused to answer our questions, he threatened to sue. But that didn't stop 5 on Your Side's Mike Rush, who tracked down a man accused of hiring a staff to do backbreaking work and then flaked out on payday.
The calluses on their hands tell the story of hard work. Their mouths tell a story of disbelief over the job they recently worked together.
"I'm like, whoa," said Lawrence Williams.
"Punch in the gut, I mean to say it mildly," said Glenn Oliver.
Matt Brooks added, "I can't believe it."
All three of these men say their boss was Christopher Aiken.
They say Aiken hired them to work at Pot of Gold Auction Company on South Broadway in St. Louis and promised good pay, bonuses, health insurance, and vacations.
They started in October.
"We put in a lot of hard, manual labor, everybody worked very, very hard," said Oliver.
According to the men, they moved stuff, sorted and cleaned in a warehouse to preparing for an auction they thought. But after two weeks, "On payday, he brings us in," said Williams.
"And then at the end he says, well bottom line I just want to let you guys know that I'm broke," Oliver recalled.
Williams said, "The pot of gold turned into a pot of coal."
"We all got screwed," said Brooks.
Lisa Frick quit Pot of Gold before these guys started. But she says she had a similar experience after working for Aiken off and on for six months.
"How often did you get paid," Mike Rush asked her.
"Never," said Frick.
"You never got paid," asked Rush.
"I mean I know that sounds stupid but I was just trying to give the guy a chance," she said.
And it was a chance to explain his side that Rush tried to give Aiken, but from the moment he called, Aiken threatened to sue Rush and refused to meet with 5 on Your Side.
So Rush tracked Aiken down outside the Clayton Courthouse where Aiken and his wife are involved in a trial relating to an attempt to foreclose on their home because of non-payment.
Here's a transcript of the conversation.
Rush: "Mr. Aiken? Hi, I want to..."
Aiken: "Don, Don." (Don is Don Nangle, Aiken's lawyer. Nangle was walking in front of Aiken when Rush approached)
Rush: "I want to talk to you about why you're not paying your workers."
Rush: "Can you give me a comment about why you're not paying your workers?"
Rush: "Why are you yelling like that? I've got four of your former employees that I've interviewed who say you haven't paid them a dime since they've worked for you."
Aiken: "Call the police."
Rush: "How do you respond?"
Aiken: "Don. Channel 5 News."
Rush: "Uh, you know, your former employees say that you're a crook and a liar. How do you respond? Don't you owe them an explanation?"
Aiken then gets in car and slams door. Hiding in the car, Aiken let his lawyer take the questions.
Rush: "Will these people get the money that they're owed?"
Nangle: (laugh) "I believe they will, but I'm not going to guarantee it."
Rush: "Why is he not being forthright with us?"
Nangle: "He's intimidated by you, sir."
Nangle: "You obviously want to put him on the news."
Second to their money, exposing Christopher Aiken is what these workers want.
"Just trying to get the word out on him," said Brooks. "You know, this guy needs to be put away."
"It's very heartbreaking when you have to go back and tell your wife and kids that, you know, this guy's not right. I'm not getting paid today, we don't have any money to pay the bills or to put food on the table," said Oliver.
Mike Rush followed up with Aiken's lawyer after they first talked to press him about if and when Aiken will pay up.
The lawyer told Mike that Aiken's business was supposed to be financed and the funds got delayed. He says the workers should be paid by the end of November
We'll keep on them to make sure they live up to their promise.