A Baltimore public interest legal organization has sued a Pennsylvania fire prevention company, claiming that the company advertised $15-an-hour jobs as "bait" to defraud job seekers of thousands of dollars in bogus fees.
Civil Justice Inc. is seeking unspecified damages from Global Security Inc. of Lancaster, Pa., on behalf of 10 plaintiffs in Central Maryland and Washington.
According to the nonprofit organization's lawsuit filed last week in Prince George's Circuit Court, several hundred people were deceived.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to immediately stop the company from running the ads and to give their suit class action status.
"It's clearly deceptive," Denis J. Murphy, Civil Justice's executive director, said of the company's ads.
Global Security's president, Paul W. Janoski, denied any wrongdoing and said his company would vigorously defend itself.
"That's all untrue," he said of the allegations in the lawsuit. "We are a fire safety company that helps thousands and thousands of people."
Janoski said at least one of the 10 plaintiffs was a disgruntled former employee. "We'll defend ourselves, and we'll win, and life will go on," he said.
According to the suit, Global Security regularly placed help-wanted ads in The Sun and the Washington Post over the past two years for an "office mgr. trainee" at $15 an hour.
The company would initially "bilk" job applicants out of small sums of money, including "$75 for a phony security/background check `fee' and $95 for a falsely described `deposit' for a sales demonstration kit," the suit alleges.
Later, the company would use "false promises to defraud victims of increasingly larger sums," including several hundred dollars for seminars and classes and several thousand dollars in fees to open their own sales offices, the suit alleges.
The plaintiffs paid between $850 and $6,000 to the company, the suit alleges, and worked out of the company's offices in Laurel and Towson.
Eventually, the plaintiffs realized Global Security did not intend to make good on its promises, and they left the company, the suit alleges.