KPRC 2 Undercover Investigation Update: Business still charging job seekers for fake training

Owner missing, one accused worker fined $2,000 a day

HOUSTON – We have an update on a KPRC 2 undercover investigation we’ve been following for months now.

Our team first exposed a Houston business charging job seekers for fake forklift training. The Texas attorney general seized their assets and ordered them to stop operating. But our team has learned people are still losing money and the man at the center of the investigation is dodging authorities and our cameras.

KPRC2 Undercover Investigation update: Company Southwest Forklift accused of charging for fake forklift training, even after being ordered to stop. We are still hearing complaints from people who lost money. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Complaints against company started 8 years ago

Complaints against Southwest Forklift and its deceptive business practices date all the way back to 2014. So when the Texas attorney general got a restraining order against the company and its owners in July, people tricked out of their money all those years were relieved.

But not so fast-- KPRC 2 Investigates is still hearing from people who say Southwest Forklift is up to the same tricks we exposed last fall. The company sends out emails and text messages claiming to be from big companies like Coca-Cola and promising great-paying jobs.

“The biggest highlight was $18.25 an hour,” said Donovan Selman.

Richmond dad Donovan Selman was looking for an extra job last year.

“I just happened to get an email from Coca-Cola,” he said.

The message read, “The forklift position you have applied for is available. 98% guaranteed.”

To obtain the job you must become OSHA certified. That certification training will cost you $80, but you’ll be reimbursed immediately at your job orientation on the same day. Selman followed the directions and drove to Southwest Forklift on West Hardy near Hardy Toll Road. He paid $80, watched a video, then got a small card that said he was certified to operate a forklift.

KPRC2 Undercover Investigation update: Company Southwest Forklift accused of charging for fake forklift training, even after being ordered to stop. We are still hearing complaints from people who lost money. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

While the name of the company is Southwest Forklift, there was never a forklift in sight.

“No forklifts and that was a big flag,” said Selman.

A red flag for dozens of people who filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and online because after the short training there were no jobs.

Our undercover investigation saw job training firsthand

KPRC 2 Investigates went undercover to see the job training for ourselves. We found a big red OSHA logo in the office. The AG now says should not be displayed because Southwest Forklift has no affiliation with OSHA.

A woman named Roxanne Rodriguez is named in this restraining order that prohibits her and owner Sergio Hernandez from advertising, operating, working for, or participating in any business that provides or advertises forklift operator training. The state seized the company’s assets that total $350,000.

Company still operating after being ordered to stop

But one month later, we got more emails from job seekers who say they fell for the same trick. This time the company told them they had to pay in cash and the training is now $120. When we stopped by the West Hardy location the door was locked and no one answered when we knocked.

When we stopped by Southwest Forklift to ask about the accusations against the company, no one was around. We did see a camera monitoring system that showed someone is keeping an eye on things. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

According to court documents, no one is answering when authorities try to serve owner Sergio Hernandez at his home in California. They’ve made four attempts so far.

So what happens next?

A judge has found Roxanne Rodriguez in contempt of court and said she will be fined $2,000 a day for every day she violates these orders. A hearing is set for Oct. 28. We will let you know what happens.


About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.