St. Louis, Mo., March 16, 2009 - The Fleming Organization, a Manchester, Mo. business that touts itself as "the premier marketing firm in America," has spent the past several months interviewing job seekers for a variety of sales and marketing positions -- even though it appears the company conducts little or no real business, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
The unusual situation has puzzled local law enforcement officials, job applicants and others who have had dealings with the company and its chairman, Terron Montre Fleming, 22.
A man from Chesterfield who told the BBB he worked four days for the company last September called the company "a huge mystery. We can't figure it out; it's very, very strange."
The company has advertised jobs on a variety of internet Web sites since at least July of last year. As recently as March 4, the company posted ads for a "receptionist/personal assistant" at a salary of $7.05 to $10 an hour and for "sales and marketing executives" at a salary of $35,000 to $40,000 per year. Both ads were posted to the online sites indeed.com and stlouis.jobing.com.
Despite a lengthy telephone interview with Fleming, the BBB remained perplexed about what work, if any, the business does.
Among the concerns:
- The Web site for The Fleming Organization says the company provides services to "high-end clients all across the United States," but the site identifies no clients and Terron Fleming said he would not provide the names of any clients to the BBB.
- The Web site also lists what Fleming says are the names of the company's top executives, but Fleming also declined to release contact information for any of those people or make arrangements for the BBB to speak to them to confirm their work for the company. The company's chief legal officer is listed as Michael C. Lake, but the BBB could find no attorney by that name in the St. Louis area. Similarly, the site lists Kyle L. Jenson as chief operating officer of the company, saying Jenson has "more than 20 years of experience in corporate sales, management and strategic brand marketing." Internet searches uncovered no one by that name in the bi-state area with that background.
- The company has used at least five local addresses in the past eight months and Fleming has leased office space in at least three office complexes for its headquarters. At two of those sites-in the West Port Plaza office complex in Maryland Heights and later in the 15600 block of Manchester Road in Ellisville - Fleming personally conducted several interviews a day with job seekers. People who said they were familiar with the business during the times of the interviews said they never met anyone else in a leadership position with the company. A tenant at the Manchester office building said Fleming leased a small windowless room that previously had been used for storage. The tenant said Fleming hired four different receptionists during a one-month period to sit in a common hallway and greet job seekers as they arrived.
- The company has issued several news releases which it posted to its Web site. In one, the company said it had recently acquired TMF Marketing USA, Inc., a search engine optimization provider, for $1.3 million. Records filed with the Missouri Secretary of State's office show that TMF Marketing was incorporated by Terron Fleming in August 2008, a little over a month before he incorporated The Fleming Organization. In a Dec. 30 release, the company announced it would open offices in New York and Chicago in 2009, "fulfilling the company's vision of 10 years, 50 states, 100 nations." Fleming declined to provide any information to support the release.
- In a civil suit filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court in 2007, St. Louis Family Church sued Fleming for impersonating the church's well-known pastor, Jeff Perry, in an e-mail to the Doubletree Hotel. In the e-mail, the writer identified himself as Perry and said his church would no longer do business with the hotel because of an alleged incident involving an unnamed African-American pastor, the suit alleged. The defamation suit also claimed that Fleming registered the domain name STLFAMCHURCH.COM and e-mail address JEFFPERRY@STLFAMCHURCH.COM in a way to impersonate Perry.
The church dismissed the case in 2008, without explanation.
The Chesterfield man who said he worked for Fleming last September, told the BBB he first applied for a position after noticing a job posting at WorkStLouis.com. He said he checked out the company's Web site which "looked legitimate to me" and submitted an online application. He said he ultimately was interviewed by Fleming at the West Port location and asked to submit to an onsite drug test for which he paid $29.99. Within minutes, he said, Fleming told him he had passed the test and offered him a job as Fleming's personal assistant. The man said he spent two days in an orientation program with Fleming and then began setting up "four or five" job interviews per day. He said he also sat in with Fleming on some interviews. He said he and others in the orientation program were told the company was involved with medical companies and did marketing and research in the cosmetics area. But, he said, Fleming was "very vague" about details.
He said those hired at the same time appeared to do little or no work during the four days he was there.
The man said he was dismissed in an e-mail sent by a man who identified himself as the company's human resources director. He was given no reason for the dismissal, he said. After several attempts to get paid by the company, he filed a small claims action in St. Louis County Circuit Court and in December was awarded $622.13. He said he has never received that money.
Others who have applied for jobs told the BBB that they were concerned about detailed personal information they gave to the company.
In an online letter posted on the company's Web site, Fleming addressed what he said were allegations that the company was involved in identity theft. "I want to put an end to this speculation immediately," the letter says. "Our company has NEVER stolen or attempted to steal anyone's identity. That is illegal and a first class ticket to prison."
About a month ago, the organization moved its office to 140 Enchanted Parkway in Manchester.
Michelle Corey, president and CEO of the BBB in St. Louis, said the BBB is concerned because Fleming has repeatedly declined to provide any evidence that the claims described on the company Web site are accurate.
"From everything we have been able to learn, this business appears to look normal on the front, but when you walk around to the back, there's nothing there."
Corey urged that persons interested in applying for a job with a company they know little about do their homework before setting up an interview. Anyone can set up a Web site and any information on such a site may be suspect. The BBB suggests that prospective job applicants learn as much as possible in advance about the company's business, its clients and its top executives. Ask hard questions, such as why a prospective employer requires advance fees and what it plans to do with any personal information.
To check out a firm's reliability report, contact the BBB at 314-645-3300, or at www.stlouisbbb.org.
The following are examples of the ads being run by the company: