Spitzer Settles With Luxury Car Company That Refused To Compensate Workers

State Attorney General Spitzer today announced the settlement of a lawsuit against a Queens County luxury car operator that used the World Trade Center tragedy as a reason it could not pay workers for work performed between August and September of 2001.

On September 24, 2001, Corporate USA, Inc. of Maspeth, Queens shut down operations and notified drivers that due to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 the company would be unable to pay its workers because business had declined severely. However, the company had ample income and continued to collect fees from customers during that period. Corporate operated a fleet of "black cars" that are dispatched by radio or computers to corporate clients, many in the downtown Manhattan area.

The Attorney General's investigation revealed that 32 drivers were not paid for assignments performed over a two-month period. Records indicate that after Corporate USA ceased operations, it continued to collect outstanding accounts receivable yet made no payments to its drivers. Moreover, the company was operating without the proper licensing from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and failed to provide required franchise information to drivers.

"It is unconscionable that an employer would attempt to use the circumstances surrounding the World Trade Center tragedy to avoid paying workers who provided the services necessary to operate its business," Spitzer said. "My office will continue to vigorously enforce the wage laws, especially against those employers who attempt to avoid their obligations while violating other laws."

The Attorney General's agreement with Corporate USA requires the company to pay restitution to drivers who were denied their wages. To date, the AG's office has collected $40,000 on behalf of the drivers.

The Attorney General requested that the State Supreme Court freeze the company's assets and assets of its owner, Manuela Gattasse Alizadeh, pending a hearing of the case to prevent further dissipation of any remaining assets. The court granted the Attorney General's petition.

The terms of the Assurance of Discontinuance bars Corporate USA, its principal Ms. Gattasse, and one of its consultants, Mr. Shawn Allison, from selling franchises in the State of New York, and further bars them from operating a "black car" business.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General James W. Versocki and Deputy Bureau Chief Jennifer Brand of the AG's Labor Bureau.