Saint Mary’s Hospital in Crown Heights closed back in 2005.
But after learning that several community leaders were interested in renovating the neighborhood medical center, they say couple Anthony Miller and Diana Montague-Griffin approached them with a grand plan.
“His plan was to actually cash in his 401K, which was $1.3 million. At that time he was going to pay the rent for 3 months and pay the workers. By then the seventh floor was going to be completed and we were going to house veterans,” said Gregory Reddick of Veterans On the Move.
Miller convinced the community leaders to sign a lease for the property with the intention of eventually buying the building outright. But before that could happen, Miller said he needed to clean out the rundown building, and he wanted to hire people from the community to help.
“They asked for people from the shelter system, they also asked for people who were incarcerated previously. People with family, they wanted people with family,” said Leroy Reid of the St. John’s Community Labor Organization.
More than 100 people were hired for the project, some for clerical work, most for labor and security. After more than a month, the workers say they still had not been paid so they camped out in the hospital and demanded their money. Eventually, Miller and Montague-Griffin gave everyone checks written on a Bale-Out Enterprises account for the wages they were owed.
But when the workers tried to cash the checks in, they got a lot more than they bargained for.
“When we went to the check cashing place to change it, they shut down and called the police on us,” worker Mark McKenzie said. Bryant Lucas, another worker, couldn’t even find Miller. “We came back and he was gone, he was nowhere to be found.”
Now the State Department of Labor is investigating Miller for unpaid wages. The Kings County District Attorney’s office also confirmed it’s investigating Miller, but could not discuss the details.
We tried calling Miller at several phone numbers he had given to employee, but every number was disconnected.
Then we went to an address for Bale-Out Enterprises, the company listed on each of the paychecks. When we got there, the landlord told us Miller had not lived there for almost a year.
So we turned our attention to Montague-Griffin, Miller’s payroll partner. It turns out four years ago she was investigated for unauthorized wire transfers and forged checks while working for a different employer. Her phones have also been disconnected.
Now after a month without income many of the workers say they’re struggling financially. Some say they’ve lost their homes and all are worried how their absent employer is using their personal information.”You had to have a child’s birth certificate, your birth certificate, your information and social,” one worker said of the paperwork and information needed to work on the project.
“He said it was for the community and we all believed him. We worked and then we didn’t get paid,” one worker said of Miller.
In addition to these workers being without their money and worried about their personal information, they are worried that this Brooklyn neighborhood will not get the resources it desperately needs.