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Healthcare workers outraged after not getting paid

July 24, 2012 3:12:18 PM PDT
Single, mother of two, Nicole Brown had high hopes for her family when she started work last year for Bright Star home health care.

"It was my first job as a certified nurse assistant. I'd be making more money. I was really excited," said Brown, "basically home care work, light housekeeping, preparing meals, attending to the patients needs."

However she soon realized that the promise of $10.50 an hour would turn out to be much less.

When asked if she received a paycheck, Brown said she did not receive one. Not even a first paycheck.

Brown said that for two months she worked and never got a dime from the Bright Star Franchise owner Christopher Luis.

"No one else should go through what I went through," adds Brown.

However, many have. Eyewitness News' investigation has found that whens Luis closed down his Bright Star franchise last September, he still owed dozens of workers more than a $100,000 in back pay and overtime.

Delrose McKenzie said that he owed her over $25,000. McKenzie worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Tiring, yes, but it didn't start taking a physical toll until the paychecks stopped coming.

"I almost had a heart attack. I couldn't believe I was working for no money. So all of this destroyed my family," said McKenzie, who also said she got an eviction notice.

Paula Haber says that Luis owes her roughly $3,000. Nurse Haber had a second job at Bright Star to help pay the property tax on her mother's home. Three months without pay nearly forced Ms. Haber to auction off the house.

"There are other stories worse than mine, but I want him to know he almost left an 86-year-old woman without a home because he did not want to step up to the plate and do the right thing," Haber says.

Eyewitness News tracked down the owner of the failed franchise who repeatedly claimed his losses are far greater than those of his former workers.

"You want my story, you want my story?" said Christopher Luis, "I lost a million dollars in wages. In money. My life savings are gone, my marriage fell apart, I lost my townhouse. I lost all my friends."

Luis blames the health insurance companies for failure to make pay-roll.

"I ran out of business because insurance companies were taking three, four, five six months to pay me back," said Luis.

Court documents show Christopher Luis got nearly a half-million dollar loan in 2008 to pay his workers during the lag in insurance reimbursements.

"I got the half-million dollar loan. It went to pay the wages the highest wages in the city. That's where it went," Luis adds.

When asked if he went bankrupt because he was paying his workers too much, Luis agreed and said he was too generous.

However even when Luis knew he was in deep financial trouble, he continued to hire more workers including Marlene Brown who's owed more than $2,000.

"He should find the money and pay us. Have a heart, you know. People like myself are single mothers, we work hard, we make that sacrifice, so we deserve that money," Brown says.

The state labor department is investigating what happened.

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