Fenton-based payroll company accused of stealing faces lawsuit

FENTON, Mo. (KSDK) - A lawsuit has been filed against the owner of PayMaster Business Services, a Fenton company accused of stealing money from clients that was supposed to pay their taxes.

The lawsuit was filed by a non-profit called Neighborhood Houses. It's one of the biggest providers of after school activities for inner city kids in St. Louis. According to the lawsuit, as of the end of this month, it'll owe more than $100,000 to local, state and federal tax agencies.

PayMaster owner Bradley Ferguson allegedly closed without paying those taxes for months in some cases, leaving clients on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars.

"We were very proactive," says Neighborhood Houses President/CEO Darlene Sowell. "As soon as we found that information out we began to take the appropriate actions to make sure the resources of the organization were safe,"

Neighborhood Houses is suing Paymaster and its owner for fraud and breach of contract, and several other counts. Sowell couldn't comment on the specifics.

"It has not affected, nor will it affect the children and families that we serve or the caring staff that provide those services," she said.

Ferguson told us after our initial story that he sent out refund checks. Everyone we've spoken with says their checks bounced. We called him again Wednesday, and got no answer.

"People have been very shocked. They've called this individual company, the lines have been disconnected," says Elizabeth Kintz with Accupay in Chesterfield. "They've gone online to process their payroll and they're no longer able to. So we've been able to take their detail from 2013 and going into the new year been able to get them straightened out."

Kintz says they offer the same service, and have picked up several of Paymaster's former clients.

Meanwhile, Neighborhood Houses says they want everyone to know they're ok.

"It is very unfortunate that a for-profit organization would appear to defraud an organization such as our's that's been around for 100 years serving the community," Sowell tells us. "So no, it's not business as usual but the services that we provide to the community will continue and have not changed."

A tax attorney we spoke with regarding this story says in most cases, he wouldn't advise taking this kind of legal action against the company because the money they spend on lawyers might not be worth the result.



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