Local Fire Safety Sales Company Denies Defrauding Employees

People appear to be coming out of the woodwork to join a lawsuit against a local businessman who former employees say cheated them.

Last Thursday, we brought you the first news of that lawsuit filed by more than 20 people against Mark Mingolo and Unique Worldwide Services, Incorporated.

There are now 44 people involved and more are expected.

Former employees claim they were defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the company.

WSFA'S Chris Holmes talked briefly with Mingolo, who blamed employees for losing their own money while training to open new stores for the company.

Last week, Mingolo agreed to talk to us this morning on camera. Since then, he has hired an attorney who has ordered his client not to talk to us.

The question former employees are asking is whether a boss sign an employment contract, then change the terms of the deal verbally, and get away with it.

Here's how they say Unique Worldwide's pitch works.

Job hunters find a promising ad in the newspaper. It features a 500 dollar signing bonus and 15 dollars an hour pay, plus benefits. You won't find Unique Worldwide Services' name in the phone book but we know it's them because if you call information, you get the same number as the one listed in the ad.

From there, you get an application form. It explains you'll have to pay $75 just to apply, non refundable, supposedly for a background check, and another $95 for a demonstration kit. But if you look closely at the fine print, one sentence says you can't rely on verbal promises - only what's written down in this contract.

The 44 employes making the claims have hired attorney Roianne Frith to handle the case.  She says that one sentence should raise a red flag.

"What they're saying is that if a dispute arises from talk outside this contract, then I'm going to say, it's not in writing, and therefore I'm not bound. I call that fraud."

Fraud, because Frith's clients say they were repeatedly promised high paying manager's jobs if they sold a certain amount of fire safety products. But when they got closer to promotion, the company changed the rules and in several cases, never delivered the inventory some of them paid thousands of dollars for.

Former employee Margaret Vail says she lost thousands while working for Unique Worldwide. "They set me up to fail, that's exactly what they did and then they took my money and ran."

Rick Battaglia is the lawyer for Unique Worldwide. He's only had the case for a couple of days, but he says the company will dispute all the charges.

Battaglia says he is in the process of answering the charges against his client, and that's why he won't allow Unique Worldwide owner Mark Mingolo to go on camera.

The lawsuit may not be the only problem hanging over unique worldwide services. At least two former employees have asked the Alabama Attorney General's office to look into the case. There's no word on if an investigation has begun.