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Criminal charges sought against AB&C after shutdown of W.Va. plants

April 11, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - One of the lawyers representing workers who lost their jobs when two AB&C Group plants shut down recently has told two local prosecutors that he believes state criminal laws might have been broken.

In letters sent to Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela-Games Neely and Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson, Martinsburg lawyer Paul Taylor said there is a state law which says that any person or corporation which disposes or relocates assets with the intent to deprive employees their wages is guilty of a felony.

In the letters made available to the Herald-Mail Co. on Thursday, Taylor asks Games-Neely and Thompson to start an investigation and use the powers of a grand jury to do so.

Games-Neely said Thursday she has asked Taylor to send her more information so she can look into the matter.

Games-Neely, who said the only information she gathered about the plant closings is what she read in newspapers, added that she was not familiar with the penalties of the law that Taylor cited.

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Thompson declined to comment.

Taylor described in the letters how AB&C terminated the employment of its workers on March 14 and did not pay wages due to them.

It now appears that workers will get some of the wages due to them, but not all, Taylor said in the letters.

Taylor said he believes workers will not get all their wages because there is limited money to go around.

Workers at AB&C Group plants off Fairfax Boulevard in Ranson, W.Va., and at a former General Motors plant in Berkeley County, were expecting paychecks March 14 but were instead told to clean out their desks because they would not be able to return to work. Some workers received checks while others did not, officials said.

About 680 workers were laid off through the March 14 actions and previous layoffs.

Two lawsuits, one filed by Taylor, have been filed over the plant closings. In Taylor's suit, brought by five company workers, the court system is being asked to "pierce the corporate veil" of companies involved in the mail order firm and give them wages due to them.

The suit is similar to one filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court in which three local lawyers filed action on behalf of laid-off AB&C Group Inc. workers. In that case, they hope to represent about 400 workers in an attempt to recoup about $1.6 million in wages and penalties.

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