So Much For “Personal Bonds”

, , , , , | Legal | January 25, 2021

I work for a small contracting and landscaping company. The crew is about a dozen guys, the owner, and me in the office over the owner’s garage. Every Monday morning, I meet with [Owner] to discuss our plan for the week — progress on jobs, bills to be paid, new clients, etc. — and then [Owner] is gone for the rest of the week. He calls or texts to get updates, but otherwise, I almost never see him.

One Monday, we are having our meeting when his phone rings.

Owner: “I have to take this. Play some music or something?”

Me: “Oh, yeah, sure.”

I plug in my headphones.

Owner: *After his call* “Okay, I’ll see you later. I have a few prospective clients today. I’m gonna go to the bank and pay [Vendor] $2,000 today.”

Me: “Sounds good.”

[Owner] often pays bills in person if he’s going to be in the area, as he believes it builds a personal bond between the vendor and contractor. I mark off the bill and go about my day. On Wednesday, [Vendor] calls the office.

Me: “[Landscaping Company]. How can I help you?”

Vendor: “Hey, uh, just a reminder that your bill is overdue.”

Me: “[Owner] paid $2,000 on Monday.”

Vendor: “What?”

Me: “[Owner] said he stopped by.”

Vendor: “No, he never came in. And you owe last month, too.”

Me: “Oh. Uhh… Okay, just a minute.”

I log in to the banking website and see that the money was taken out on Monday.

Me: “Maybe he got caught up. I’ll give him a call and call you back.”

Vendor: *Annoyed* “You need to pay by the end of the week.” *Hangs up*

I call [Owner] but his phone goes straight to voicemail. I leave a message telling him that [Vendor] called, and I explain what I said to them. An hour later, he calls me back.

Owner: “Why did you tell them I’d be there?”

Me: “Because… you said you would?”

Owner: “And I’ll get there. I’m gonna take another $2,000.”

Me: “Okay, for bills?”

Owner: “It’s my money!”

Me: “Your paycheck?”

Owner: “Look, I gotta go. Just don’t worry about it.” *Hangs up*

I was in charge of documenting payroll, so I noted that he’d taken it — tax-free — on our payroll website. I went back through the bank statement against my notes from our meetings and saw that he had taken money from the account every day he’d said he was paying vendors. I contacted each vendor and they all said he hadn’t paid.

[Owner] was out of contact for the next week, not even showing up for the Monday meeting. I called his phone several times but he never answered. I went down to the main house and knocked on the door. Before I could say anything, his wife told me I was fired and closed the door in my face.

Two weeks later, I received a paycheck and a letter from [Owner]’s wife. She had followed [Owner] on one of his “business trips” and found that he had been visiting sex workers and using the company’s money to pay them.

I found out through the workers that [Owner]’s wife had filed for divorce and full custody of their three children. The company went under during the proceedings, and last I heard, [Owner] was in prison.

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