New business reportedly opening in Gulfport hasn't paid workers - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

New business reportedly opening in Gulfport hasn't paid workers

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

When Nicole Jefferson spotted a new business in Gulfport on Facebook, she jumped at the opportunity.

Jefferson contacted the man behind the page, Patrick Walker Junior, who told her he was in the process of opening the store in Gulfport's Hardy Court Shopping Center.

"This was going to be the clothing store I was supposed to run," Jefferson said. "I was going to be the retail manager."

Jefferson said she and others hired by Walker began interviewing potential candidates for cashiers, a receptionist and retail sales associates at $8.50 an hour.

"Me and the four board members were doing the work, as far as applications," she stated. Jefferson said they also did interviews, went through orientation and got all the paperwork together."

They were presented with a booklet on policies and procedures for applicants and Jefferson said she thought everything was good, that is until it was time to receive a paycheck.

"We didn't see no money, didn't see no money," Johnson said. "We kept calling him, calling him to see when we're going to get our money and he kept telling us, it's going to be the next day, the next day, the next day. Still haven't seen no types of money."

I contacted Gulf Coast Innovations owner Patrick Walker Junior on my cell phone.

"This is A.J. Giardina with WLOX-TV...so you say you're still going to open up the fashion store right here?"

Walker told me the new business would open in January. He also said he had a lease on a building in Hardy Court. I contacted the leasing agent Don McWilliams with the Mitchell Company.

McWilliams told me, " No I don't have a lease with Gulf Coast Innovations. Patrick Walker Junior is not opening a store in the Hardy Court Shopping Center."

When I shared that information with Walker, he insisted it was in the works and the people he hired to get the business started would be paid. He told me he told Jefferson and the other women that they would be paid.

Jefferson said, "Walker never contacted me, he won't even answer his telephone."

I checked to see if Patrick Walker Junior or Gulf Coast Innovations Inc. had applied for a business license with the City of Gulfport. There was no record of the company or Walker applying for any type of permit.

Walker's business partner, Maurice Marshall, told me that Walker secured a Small Business Loan and an a federal grant for first-time business owners through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

A few hours after I first spoke with Walker, he called me back and said there was no reason for the press to get involved. Walker again promised to pay the women. That was two weeks ago. The women have not been paid.

Before doing any work for a new start up company, check to see if the company has a business license.If they don't have one, that should raise a red flag.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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