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Job applicants claim company tricked them

9:10 PM, May 19, 2010   |    comments
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Several job applicants and former employees of Onyx Wholesale tell 9Wants to Know and the Better Business Bureau the company lured them into a job interview with newspaper and Internet ads for a receptionist job opening the company does not appear to fill.

It turned out applicants were asked to sell perfume on the street.

Esther Roybal, who estimates she filled out more than 200 applications during her job search, says she did not learn what job was really available until the middle of her interview.

Roybal asked about the receptionist job.

"I asked them and they said, 'No what we want you to do is start in our sales department and you can work up from there to management,'" she said.

Roybal says she does not believe there was ever a receptionist job available.

"It was going to [be going to] bus stops and spraying perfume on unsuspecting people and trying to sell them perfume," Roybal told 9Wants to Know.

Rose Humann applied to be a receptionist but took the perfume sales job when she learned there was no receptionist position available for her.

"I only stayed a week," Humann said.

Humann said she and other job applicants sat through a three-hour pitch by company owner Chris Westphal who told them they could make more than $100,000 a year.

9Wants to Know went undercover and found Westphal claimed he made $87,000 during his first year with the company and $124,000 the second year.

"My Mercedes, I bought with cash," Westphal told applicants. "I live in South Denver now in a luxury condo."

Westphal showed applicants a picture of a sprawling southern California mansion he said belongs to Scentura company's owner, Larry Hahn. Scentura is the manufacturer of the perfume Westphal's company sells.

"He's been on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and has been on 60 Minutes twice," Westphal said.

9Wants to Know found some of Westphal's claims are untrue.

A producer at 60 Minutes tells 9Wants to Know the program has never profiled Hahn.

Westphal's salary records are not public, but we did find a lawsuit against Westphal claiming he owed $2,517.43 in taxes to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

A police report from Feb. 21 indicates that Westphal lives in his girlfriend's apartment as her "live in boyfriend."

Westphal refused 9Wants to Know's repeated requests to talk on camera. A man indicating he is Westphal wrote a post on the consumer complaint website Rip Off Report. Click here to read his post.

There is no state law making it illegal to post a job opening that does not exist, according to several law enforcement and state agencies contacted by 9NEWS.

The Better Business Bureau gives Westpahl's Onyx Wholesale a C+ rating. An online report says the BBB gave the grade due to the length of time the business has been operating and the length of time the business has taken to resolve one or more complaints.

The BBB says one complaint filed against the business was not resolved. Of a total of five complaints in the past 36 months, four were resolved, according to BBB records provided to 9NEWS.

"I was able to find notes from 2006, same problem," BBB spokesman Megan Miller said of complaints received about the receptionist ad.

Miller suggests job applicants check a business' reputation on the BBB's website before applying for a job.

Job applicants and former employees say they want other people to know about their experience with the company.

"It's very frustrating when you go and waste your time, your gas, getting ready to go and your time filling out paperwork for something that's not even a real job," Roybal said.

If you have more information on this story or want to send investigator Jace Larson a tip, call 303-871-1432 or e-mail jace.larson@9news.com.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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