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Tomato company CEO says farmers trying to 'sabotage' business

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OWENS CROSS ROADS, AL (WAFF) -

There has been a mass exodus at Cypress Creek Farms as several employees walked out Monday. This comes after the company had already laid off several others last week.

On top of the walk-out, some farmers who grow for the company showed up wanting a refund for what they were promised.

The Better Business Bureau also downgraded the company to an F rating again because the company still has advertisements and about three different websites that violate Federal Trade Commission rules by claiming farmers can earn $25,000 growing tomatoes. No one has actually made that kind of profit.

Monday, an affiliate farmer said she's already invested the up front cost of $12,950 into the company. She has a greenhouse, but it's sitting without tomato seeds and a heater.

"I found out he's never ordered the furnaces at all. I'm very mad. I don't work, I'm not able to work. My husband took his 401k to put into this business so that maybe we would have extra money coming in and he's took it," she said.

The "he" she is referring to is CEO James Lawhorne who claimed he was stepping down. She wasn't the only farmer who showed up with questions.

Employees said Lawhorne was at the office earlier Monday, but he was not there later in the morning.

Lawhorne's son, Brandon, said he resigned from his father's company about a week ago, but defended the work they do.

"She's still waiting on her seedlings. Well it takes 60 days to get the seedlings, have you read our agreement?" he said.

When asked why the company isn't providing answers to affiliates, Brandon responded said it was because of WAFF's previous reports about the company.

"You scared everybody away. You've ruined 250 families' lives by your (expletive) opinionated journalism. Suck it," he said.

James Lawhorne said he doesn't have access to their website anymore to remove the $25,000 claim. He also said for the past few weeks, he's refunded about $470,000 to affiliates.

He said the group who showed up to his office Monday are now trying to sabotage his company.

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