SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A security company based in San Jose is accused of failing to pay its employees, while it received hundreds of thousands of dollars in government assistance during the pandemic.

Connie Maddox was excited to start her new full-time job filing reports for Customized Security Services this past February. But she told KPIX 5 that feeling was short-lived.

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“I am absolutely, positively a disgruntled former employee, yes,” Maddox said. “But with reasons. Good, valid reasons.”

One week in April, Maddox said her boss, Dareyn Lanier, told her he wasn’t able to pay her on time.

“He came to me and said that they were having trouble collecting from one of the clients who owed him $40,000, and he couldn’t write checks just yet,” Maddox recalled.

A few days later she said Lanier finally handed her a check for her typical $1,288.32 salary. But several days after she cashed it, Maddox claims her bank returned the check for insufficient funds.

Maddox said Lanier promised to write her another check.

“So he wrote me a check on Saturday, which I again thinking ‘Well, he would never deliberately write a check a second time knowing he doesn’t have funds,'” she said. “Well, it bounced and I ended up with over, almost $600 in overdraft fees.”

Maddox claims she began a full-time job at another company because she couldn’t financially rely on Customized Security Services, but that she agreed to continue working for Lanier as long as she could work from home.

The two, Maddox claims, later had a disagreement over the arrangement, which led to her finally leaving the company several weeks ago.

When she went to cash in her final check, Maddox said it bounced as well.

“This is not a nice guy,” she said.

Maddox is far from the only Customized Security Systems employee with similar wage violation claims.

Leo Sanchez, a former security guard with the company, said Lanier failed to pay him an estimated $10,000 in regular, holiday and overtime pay. Sanchez worked for the company for a half a decade, he said. At one point, Lanier allegedly failed to pay Sanchez $1,500 in 2017 and said he would pay Sanchez in $100 monthly increments.

“I asked him, ‘Where’s my money,’ and he said, ‘Later on, and later on,'” Sanchez told KPIX 5. “I’m working all the holidays, never pay me the overtime, the time and a half, never pay me.”

According to Google and Yelp reviews of the security guard company, which is located at 888 N. 1st Street, several former employees shared similar experiences with Lanier.

On Google, one review posted a year ago reads “this company does not pay you.”

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On Yelp, Jonathan M. wrote “they pay you late every time.”

Rhonda left a review that said “having labor issues…do not recommend.”

Another person by the name of Aprim wrote that the company “paid three days, five days, seven days late.”

Aprim appears on the list of wage violation claims filed against Customized Security Services, which was provided to KPIX 5 by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Also included in the claims is Maddox whose case is labeled “under investigation.”

“I remain strapped for cash,” Maddox said. “My daughter is taking me grocery shopping tomorrow, because I’ve been eating carrots and celery and ranch dressing for dinner and lunch for the last three days.”

Steven Cohn, senior attorney for the Advocacy Center for Employment Law, said many employers have found themselves struggling to pay their employees during the pandemic, which is why Congress approved the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loans.

“Those programs were designed to keep workers paid, and keep them on the payroll,” Cohn said.

According to records, Customized Security Services received a PPP loan in the amount of $233,215 in May 2020. The company received a second PPP loan for $212,500 in January 2021, just one month before Maddox was hired.

“If they’ve taken loans to ensure payment then they’re not necessarily relying upon their customers’ paying,” Cohn told KPIX 5. “So where did that money go?”

Cohn said that if a company isn’t paid by its clients, it’s still not a reason to fail to pay its employees on time.

“No, absolutely not. Workers are not the financial security of the company,” said Cohn. “I think that’s just horrible, I feel bad for Connie and her family.”

The financial troubles don’t stop there for Lanier. The California Tax Franchise Board confirmed with KPIX 5 that Customized Security Services is not in good standing with the agency for failure to file tax returns and failure to pay its tax liability. The company has an outstanding balance of $22,990.

Maddox said she was finally able to recently collect her final paycheck after she emailed, texted and sent a letter to Lanier threatening legal action. But Sanchez said he still hasn’t been paid.

“He’s a jerk all the way around,” Maddox said.

KPIX 5 left a voicemail for Lanier, and has yet to hear back from him. An attempt to reach him at his San Jose office was unsuccessful as both entrances to the building to gain access to the office were locked.

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When asked what she would say to people who apply for a job at Customized Security Services, Maddox replied, “Don’t do it, don’t do it. You’ll be sorry. You’re going to have trouble getting paid, you may have paychecks that bounce and you’ll be working for people that don’t give a damn about their employees.”