AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Job applicants cheated out of hundreds of dollars each

How low can you go? How about cheating people anxious for better-paying jobs in housekeeping and maintenance?

Applicants to a Georgia job-placement company called National Vocation Group were deceived into believing they could be placed in jobs that paid up to $17 an hour, federal prosecutors say. To be hired, applicants were told they needed to shell out $349 for training that is required by OSHA.

Hundreds paid. None got the jobs.

Now, both of the New Yorkers who operated the scheme in the Atlanta metro area are heading to federal prison. This week, a federal jury convicted company co-owner Erick Powell, 29, of wire fraud. Another co-owner, Ahmad McCormick, 31, also known as Aaron McCormick, Anthony Fisher and Aaron Hillman, pleaded guilty to the same charge in August.

U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak said the company first operated in downtown Atlanta, using Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter.com to advertise jobs. The ads falsely said the company had contracts with commercial cleaning companies throughout the Atlanta area.

When job-seekers complained of being duped, the company relocated to East Point. Once it disbanded in October 2015, the two men continued operating other similar schemes, according to a news release from Pak.

The original indictment said that they operated other phony job-staffing businesses under at least 19 other names, including Innercity Cleaning Services, National Works LLC, Regional Property Management, Midtown Staffing Solutions and Spick and Span Services.

Sentencing dates have not been set. According to McCormick's plea agreement, he could face a maximum of 20 years in prison. He also agreed to pay restitution to victims.





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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.