In early February, about three months after she'd been hired as editor for the Boca Raton-based luxury magazine Cravings Palm Beach, Rosalie Farnsworth began to lose faith in her boss' willingness to pay her. After all, Howard Needle, who was the magazine's publisher, wasn't paying the others who worked for him. In mid-February after she reminded Needle that he owed money to freelance workers who contributed to the upcoming Cravings issue, she says Needle asked her to put them off by telling them that the issue had not been published, and that was why he was late in making the payments. But Farnsworth knew that wasn't true.
"As a person, I was so uncomfortable with this," writes Farnsworth in a note to The Juice describing her work for Needle. "I had been at the forefront of all communications with the freelancers" -- meaning that her own professionalism was at stake. Farnsworth ultimately paid most of those freelancers with her own money. "Per my contract I was to be paid for all expenses," she writes, "but I understood that I probably wouldn't see a dime."
Farnsworth had not yet been paid by Needle for her work editing the last issue, which would never be published. She had started working on that issue in hopes that Needle would find the money, eventually. But when the end of February neared and the payment still hadn't come, Farnsworth finally gave up. She left Cravings on February 26. The magazine folded a short time later.
Though Needle had paid her for two previous months' work at the magazine, he had done so with a credit card, and Farnsworth says that after she left, Needle disputed the credit card charge, negating the payments he made to Farnsworth. Between her roughly three months' unpaid labor and the payouts she made to freelancers, Farnsworth says Needle owes her $7,868.
Needle's behavior didn't make sense to Farnsworth until recently, when she researched his business history.
As detailed in previous posts, Needle served a 30-month federal prison term after pleading guilty to felony charges of racketeering and extortion in connection with a crooked currency futures outfit in New York busted by the FBI in what the agency called Operation Wooden Nickel. After doing his time, Needle launched his publishing career.
As the contracted employee who lost the most from her work with Needle, Farnsworth has been the most aggressive investigator of his business dealings. She has contacted former freelancers and now counts 14 people whose terms Needle has failed to honor -- and she expects to find more.
"Being associated with this man causes professional injury that supersedes financial loss," she writes. Needle answered a few of my questions last week, but since the first blog post on this subject, he has asked The Juice not to contact him. In previous interviews, he's maintained that whatever outstanding debts he may have as Cravings publisher, they're entirely due to the anemic economy. "I didn't get my bailout," he said last week, adding that Farnsworth and other workers who feel entitled to collect should tell their stories in civil court.
But the refunds Needle received on Farnsworth's payments, he said, came from his being uncomfortable writing checks to a business that didn't exist. "She was running revenue through a company and was taking money out of the bank, and (the registered owner of the company) knew nothing about it," he alleged. (Needle said he would fax The Juice documents to back his claim, but he has not yet done so.) That company, which Needle says was Life Force Innovations, has been inactive since 2006, according to corporate filings with the state.
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Needle says he filed a police report against Farnsworth and expects her to be charged with tax evasion.
Farnsworth said in an email message that the credit card payments were processed through a merchant account held by Life Force Innovations and that, contrary to what Needle says, the owner was aware that transactions for its subsidiary, Farnsworth and Associates, were processed through this account. Since she doesn't operate Life Force Innovations, Farnsworth adds, she didn't know that the business was inactive. She says of herself and the principal of Life Force Innovations that, "There was no malicious intent by either of us. It was a harmless oversight."
In Farnsworth's opinion, Needle is a "practicing criminal." Farnsworth does not believe his explanation that the magazine's failure was entirely due to the economy, nor does she believe that it was entirely due to Needle's mismanagement. Rather, she claims that she and others who worked for Needle were "scammed."
It's apparent that Needle paid few workers, and judging by his December bankruptcy filing that he also failed to make full payments to printers. Since those are typically a magazine's most expensive bills, it's not clear where Needle spent the revenue he gathered from the advertisements that filled the four issues the magazine published before it folded. No one else worked as closely with Needle than Farnsworth, and she says, "I have no idea where he put the money."