I watched with interest the smattering of news last week about Phil Missirlian, CEO of Greystone Staffing and Greystone Healthcare Staffing of NY. Missirlian was arrested May 11 and has been charged with tax fraud.
At issue is nearly a half-million dollars he allegedly stole to pay alimony and child support to his ex-wife Barbara and the couple’s children. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
According to Nassau County (NY) District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Missirlian failed to pay $496,850 of employees’ withholding taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2009.
My first response was: this is a typical business dispute for someone with big dreams.
Missirlian’s dreams were outlined in a New York Times article from 2000 that described Missirlian’s beginnings in the staffing industry.
It’s curious that the terms of Missirlian’s takeover of what had been his Dunhill Staffing Systems franchise are not public knowledge. But his plans for expansion into Florida and North Carolina seemed pretty ambitious, and pretty clear.
My second response was: it’s not like we couldn’t have seen this coming.
According to an independent search using the New York Department of State’s Tax Warrant Notice System, red flags appeared as early as August of 2007 when a tax lien of $46,803.04 popped up against Greystone Healthcare Staffing of NY, a division of Greystone Staffing.
The numbers increased from there. In October of 2007 a lien against Greystone Staffing showed an amount of $135,328.95; in July of 2010, it was $17,920.03.
There are no tax liens or amounts shown for 2009, perhaps because Greystone Staffing filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March of that year. Schedules show a total claim of more than $4 million, with nearly a million of it unsecured.
So what’s the deal? For many, many businesspeople, the ego is larger than the brains behind it.
And it’s almost certain that behind the scenes, the tremendous ego of Missirlian looms large.
I can assume this from a man who was listed, despite all of this, in a “Ones to Watch” list in the Long Island Business News in June 2010.
I can also assume this from a man who was once denied a New York Supreme Court appeal and forced to pay a principal of $26,100 – almost a livable annual salary – to a blacktop company for changes to his driveway.
Behind the scenes, there can also be all kinds of justifications. The government is wrong; this is a witch hunt. Disgruntled former employees are feeding the prosecution false information. You hear stuff like this a lot during business disputes.
But here’s the bottom line: whatever is going on, something is clearly very wrong. If you’re working for a company that clearly has multiple tax liens against it, that’s a problem. If the company files for bankruptcy, that’s another problem. If any of these things result in the arrest of your CEO, that’s a big problem. And if the company you work for should get shut down, regardless of how justified you feel, you’re still out on the street.
So it’s definitely curious that Missirlian seems to have a handful of employees that have stuck with him through thick and thin, even as others have referred to the man as a “dirtbag.”
At what point do you just say “This is wrong?”