By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
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It must be noted also that West is an extremely shrewd and successful businessman. Otherwise, he could not have earned enough money to owe the IRS hundreds of thousands of dollars. Public records show that two months after the 2002 story, West was hit with a $528,848.51 federal tax lien. Another lien for $916,575.57 had been filed in 1996. West's accountant, Giovanni Incardona, wrote that those liens "were reduced by approximately $1 Million Dollars in 2004" in a statement faxed to New Times. "Negotiations are underway to eliminate the balance of the obligations," Incardona added. Indeed, a document filed with Broward County in May indicates that the 1996 lien has been "released."
West has operated many businesses. Right now, his company blasts faxes to companies, hyping "cost-reduction programs" and marketing help in selling smaller companies to large companies. His letterhead lists offices in New York, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Beverly Hills, Ottawa, and Toronto. West's companies have even faxed such solicitations to the New Times paper in Phoenix no fewer than ten times since the 2002 profile ran, an apparent violation of Section 227, United States Code, Title 47, which prohibits junk faxes. West wrote in a faxed statement that New Times had voluntarily provided its fax number in a survey.
For a taste of the operation, check out his website, mergersandmoney.com. West claims in a faxed statement to be "in contract for in excess of $150 million dollars in sales this year and that our client base is currently valued at several billions of dollars." He didn't answer the question put to him: "How many deals have you closed in the last year?" nor would he name any clients, citing "letters of confidentiality."
One who did dance with West recently was David Michaels, president of Lexington International LLC. Court records show that in April 2003, West Direct Marketing Inc. settled with the Boca Raton-based company for $5,000 after an arbitrator ruled that West's company hadn't arranged advertising, as promised, for the manufacturer of the Hairmax Laser Comb. After the arbitrator ruled, West claimed in a petition seeking protection from a Broward County Court that Michaels "acosted [sic] petitioner + hung from his car door threatening to destroy petitioner." Reached at his office, Michaels says that in trying to collect more than $12,000 from West, he did stand in the way of West's car door as the Pompano businessman tried to close it but didn't threaten West. Part of the settlement stipulated that West would withdraw his petition. "I have never dealt with a businessman with such a history," said Michaels, who is prohibited by the settlement from disparaging West.
For Wallace, departure from West's fiefdom was only the beginning. The day she was fired, she says, she filed for unemployment. After Wallace was awarded benefits, West appealed. In tapes of the hearing obtained from the state's Unemployment Appeals Commission, the Pompano businessman is heard telling the referee that he fired Wallace because she threatened to sue if she was not paid for a sick day. He says also that Wallace surfed the Internet for personal reasons -- contrary to company policy -- and at one point was "on some form of a cult site" searching for ways to protect herself from "an evil spirit" that was stalking her.
Wallace acknowledges that she surfed the web. But she maintains today that she never felt she was being stalked by a spirit, evil or otherwise, and that her mention of legal consultation was hardly a threat to sue. Also, the policy manual he provided at the hearing was dated six weeks after Wallace was fired.
The only one New Times could obtain from state records, which strangely is marked with a 1998 copyright from someone named Ann Poe, states, in stilted English, "Ms Wallace, however she exudes potentially erratic behavior that me be deemed unstable."
The unemployment appeals referee believed West. "The claimant advised the employer that if she was not paid, she would disrupt the company's operations and sue the company," the referee wrote in her decision. Two weeks ago, New Times received faxed affidavits from West and three of his employees stating, variously, that Wallace had said that "she would kill herself if she lost her job" and that "she was leaving the office voluntarily and was looking for another job."
Finally, though Wallace applied for workers' compensation insurance, state records show that at the time she was fired, West Acquisitions & Investments Group Inc. didn't carry any. West wrote in a faxed statement that "an outside consultant" responsible for purchasing the insurance hadn't.
With West's knowledge, Wallace had been looking for work occasionally before her firing, she contends and he confirms in the hearing tapes. Last week, she finally landed a new job in Boca Raton as an office manager. Yet her ire abides. "The man made me choose between my life and my job that day," she says, "and I got fired for it." On July 26, Wallace's attorney, Nathaniel Green, filed a civil complaint against West Acquisitions & Investments Group seeking at least $15,000 for retaliatory discharge and negligence because of the fumes. West's response cites his successful appeal to the Agency for Workforce Innovation as proof that Wallace was dismissed for cause. He also names Green in the suit and asks that the judge remove the attorney from the case because he "allowed a copy of [the] lawsuit to be circulated... among Defendant's employees."
Green is unfazed. "It's not our policy to file frivolous claims," he says. He and Wallace could simply be following directive number eight in West's own policy manual: "Do Not Get Pushed Around."