Wise Guys workers: Where's our money?

Owner Mark Holloway now claims he is homeless

Jennifer Dowling - SEASIDE, Ore. (KOIN 6) -- Bradley McCaulley is a former cook at Wise Guys Burgers and Fries in Seaside. Ron Richardson was a kitchen manager. They both have the same complaint.

Neither received the money they say they were owed when Wise Guys owner Mark Holloway closed the Seaside location.

"I was extremely angry," said McCaulley, who said he was still waiting for his last paycheck from Holloway of more than $300.

"My wife's a housekeeper. Between those two jobs that's all we lived on," said McCaulley.

Richardson shares a similar complaint.  "He claimed that they started out with no money so they never really paid people."

He estimated he may be owed close to $6,000.

Since Mark Holloway opened the business in the spring of 2014, the stack of complaints grew.

Another employee, James Oday, even reported to police that when he staged a protest about his pay outside the restaurant in Seaside, Holloway, "sprayed him with a water bottle," and allegedly "pushed him."

Holloway denied those claims in the same report.

Then, according to employees, the Seaside location suddenly closed.

"When nobody was there, he came in and cleared everything out," said McCaulley.

"That was a surprise," said Richardson.

The two men say Holloway moved equipment about 17 miles away to a building in Astoria to open another restaurant with the "Wise Guys" name.

"I was like, um, shouldn't you pay us first?" said Richardson.

The State of Oregon steps in

Bureau of Labor and Industry records from the state of Oregon show that the state stepped in to pay more than $12,000 in missing paychecks. The money for that fund comes from taxes on employers.

Asked if the state could pledge to get that money back, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said they always look at that.

"We always go back and look to the business to repay the fund," Avakian told KOIN 6 News. "Often times when a business goes under, there are no assets. It's very difficult to collect."

When asked if he could send it to collections, he said, "We could, but we are very careful to make sure that we use our resources wisely, and that there is actually something to collect from."

Court documents show Holloway filed for bankruptcy in 1993.  He also registered more than a half-dozen business with the state in the past that are now inactive.

Those included Triumph Marketing, Thrill Seekers Northwest and Superwobble.com.

Avakian said the state will be looking into any assets that Holloway may still have.


Others owed money

It's not just the state or former employees that would like to get money back.

"We started selling these gift certificates," said  Jennifer Tollefson, one of Holloway's former employees in Astoria.

She and her husband Noah contacted police to share their concerns after they found out the Astoria location was not opening.

Tollefson said that Holloway had sent her out to sell gift certificates in Astoria for a business that never opened.

"He told us both that some of the money was being donated to the Boys and Girls Club and to tell people so it would sell more," said Jennifer.

The Boys and Girls Club of Portland said they don't have a club in Astoria or Seaside.

According to Jennifer Tollefson, the message that the Astoria location wouldn't open didn't even come from Holloway but from a third party.

Holloway responds

KOIN 6 News eventually found a working phone number for Holloway.

When asked if he intended to not pay his employees, he responded, " I'm not going to get into any of that. My intention was to stay in business."

He also skirted answering if he was going to pay back the gift certificates that were sold.

"I am right in the middle of something, let me call you back in a little while," he said.

Holloway did not call back, instead sending a social media message saying, "I have received a couple of gift certificates by mail so far and have replaced at face value."

Holloway would not confirm an address, saying, "I am homeless."

Businesses and residents in Astoria who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they bought more than $100 in non-refunded gift certificates. They all said they'd like their money back.

Holloway also said that he didn't feel ashamed of his actions.

In his email, Holloway wrote: "Yoh must remember two things here. Im not a perfect person by any stretch. But I help people all over. I give people jobs and helped them to the detriment of my own self. Your hearing lots of stuff from of variety of sources .I really needed someone at wise guys to handle some of the paper work . As I told every one .I wants to build them .not run them"

Holloway also said since he's become "homeless," he's been volunteering at a community center and is voluntarily raising funds for a food banks. He declined to name where he volunteers.

"I don't have an income," he said. "From what I've been told by the state and according to our records almost all workers have been paid to date. I have one I personally want to pay," he said.

He said, in writing, he didn't know if that person had filed a claim with the state: "I dont know that they didnt. I just know whatever they were given could never be enough. this person deserves credit. I never even received a check since feb.23rd.the only money I ever personally recieved was enough to cover space of a small apt. Once a month .and I let three workers stay there becuase they had no place to go."

McCaulley, one of his former workers, said, "I think he should pay, one way or the other."

"If the business reopens, and there is money coming in, we will make sure that that money is paid back," said Avakian.

The Wage Security Fund paid on average $448,000 last year to employees who didn't receive final paychecks.

Richardson and McCaulley say they are in the process of filing claims.

The Astoria police said they will pursue the case if Holloway fails to deal with people who purchased gift certificates.


Need help? If you don't get a final paycheck, contact the Bureau of Labor and Industries online or call the Wage and Hour Division at 971.673.0844. 

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