Employees claim Region 8 businessman won't pay them

Employees claim Region 8 businessman won't pay them

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - Numerous employees of a Walnut Ridge gas station tell Region 8 News that their paychecks are bouncing and their boss is nowhere to be found.

Food Express, previously Village Creek Express, came under new ownership this year. But former employees tell us the new owner, Terry Sanders, hasn't paid a number of the workers.

Those employees have filed paperwork with the prosecuting attorney's office for the third judicial district.  They tell us while they aren't hopeful they'll see Sanders again, or even get the money they're owed, they want others to be aware of what they've gone through.

For many who were offered jobs at Food Express in Walnut Ridge, it was an offer they couldn't refuse.

Michael Sellers said he met store owner Terry Sanders to discuss installing security cameras at the store. Sellers said it was at that time, Sanders persuaded him to leave his current job to work at the gas station.

"He said I could work all the hours I want, he needed people, he was just starting up the business," Sellers said.

After working there a week, Sellers said he got the better hours he was promised but not the money.

"When I try to cash the check after a week worth of work, there was no funds in the account," he said.

He's not the only one. Jackie Travis is among many employees who took their complaints to the prosecuting attorney's office after his check for nearly $400 bounced.

"Me and my buddies, we'd go to try and cash 'em and we can't cash 'em at all because he has no money in the account," Travis said.

Some former employees told us they never got a check to begin with. Heather Hibbard was promised $600 a week to manage the store.

She said in her five days of working there, it wasn't just employees who weren't being paid.

"We had vendors every day wanting their money," Hibbard said. "He just ripped us all off just so that he could gain for himself."

Now, the gas pumps have been shut off and those we spoke with all have the same idea about what happened.

"The money was coming in, but it was going right back out at the same time," Sellers said. "Unfortunately, to the wrong people."

"I feel like he took all the money and he was here to make what he could and as soon as the funds ran out, he was gone," Hibbard said.

"I don't think we'll ever see him again in this town," Travis told Region 8 News. "Too many people after him."

Region 8 News asked the prosecuting attorney's office about what steps will be taken in this matter. They said for now, it's a civil issue but it could turn into a criminal matter. And according to documents we found, Sanders is no stranger to crime.

The Arkansas Office of the Courts states that Terry Lenn Sanders has pleaded guilty to hot checks before, once in 1992 and again in 1994.

He was also charged with violation of the state's hot check law in 2008, but prosecutor's decided to drop the case in 2011.

Other complaints on Sanders have come in over the years as well. Since 2004, numerous reports have been filed on Sanders through the Jonesboro Police Department for everything from theft to forgery and identity fraud at local banks.

Jonesboro Police also tell Region 8 News that there are numerous social security numbers listed for Sanders.

When we spoke with Sanders by phone Wednesday afternoon, he told us, "I have nothing to say. They stole my money."

However, this isn't the first time Region 8 News has received complaints on Sanders.

In August, former employees of Sanders' home improvement business told us Sanders never paid them either...

We spoke with one woman who told us she's not surprised that more complaints are being filed against Sanders.

She filed her own complaint with the Arkansas Department of Labor and won. The only reason the case is currently listed as "dismissed" is because the Labor Board can't find a current address on Sanders.

Tonya Newberry said she just hopes no one else becomes a victim.

"It just really breaks my heart that he has no conscious," Newberry said. "He has no feelings what he's doing to these people. I mean, he's absolutely ruined some peoples lives."

When these complaints were made in August, we spoke with Sanders by phone then too.

He claimed those allegations were true but only because the company that hired him as a contractor hadn't paid him yet.

When we contacted the company, they denied those claims, saying they'd paid Sanders and it was his job to pay his workers.

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