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Judge orders hold on AB&C Group's assets in Ranson

April 01, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A judge signed an order Monday calling for the seizure of funds and property of the recently-closed AB&C Group so the assets will be available to pay unpaid wages due to laid-off workers, court documents show.

Under the Jefferson County Circuit Court order, a court-appointed "special receiver" will take control of property and funds in the mailing company's Ranson, W.Va., and Martinsburg, W.Va., locations.

"It stops the company from moving its assets from the building," explained Paul G. Taylor, an attorney representing laid-off AB&C workers in a lawsuit.

As of Monday, the workers still had not received paychecks due to them March 14, the day the layoffs took effect, the court found.

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The court has not ruled on whether the workers will be awarded money for wages, withheld benefits or other damages sought in the lawsuit, but the property seizure will preserve assets that could be used if an award is granted, Taylor said.

The order calls for the special receiver to "determine if there are sufficient assets and their estimated market value which may be quickly sold to yield all of the necessary monies to pay the wages due the employees."

The property seized does not include real estate or rents, but includes office equipment, office furniture, and any property or inventory in the company's Martinsburg warehouse, Taylor said.

Taylor said he requested the measure after his clients told him the company was cleaning out the warehouse.

Company officials were not given prior notice of the property seizure due to the emergency circumstances, but were to be served copies of the order, Judge Gina M. Groh said in the order.

AB&C officials had not yet responded to the lawsuit, Taylor said Monday night.

"They've just disappeared," he said.

Meanwhile, some of Taylor's clients have had to go on welfare, he said. Some were due a partial paycheck Friday that they also did not receive, he said.

"This is very serious," Taylor said. "A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck. They have a very thin margin."

Taylor said an order for a special receiver to take control of a company's property is rare, but the circumstances of the case are also unusual.

"You don't really see it happen on this large a scale, a company treating its employees this way," he said.

About 680 workers were laid off through the March 14 actions and previous layoffs. State officials, caught off guard by the plant shutdowns, had to scramble to get workers the help they needed.

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