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NEWS REPORTS > THE SUBURBAN 16 JANUARY 2002


Job-placement scam rolls
January 16, 2002
By Diodora Bucur

When Sylvia moved back to Montreal two years ago, she had no doubt that with her education and experience in the U.S. she would soon land a job.

But then Sylvia turned to Employment 2000 to help her find a job.

Employment 2000 is one of several job placement “agencies” run by a West-End resident called Harris Black.

Like many drawn to Black's services, Sylvia was responding to job ads reading “no French required” and “good salaries.”

“He told me that I needed to make a $20 deposit for using his services,” said Sylvia, who asked that we not reveal her name. “When I came back with my debit card,” he said, “well, if it’s a debit card and not a credit card I have to take more than $20, I have to take out half of your first week’s paycheck. He said I would be making $600 to $700 a week.

“I said $350 is the most I could give him - I only had $400 on my debit card,” said the 24-year-old woman.

Sylvia claims Black promised her 10 job interviews for his fee. Instead, she got an e-mail with seven names. Six were not hiring and one offered $8.50 per hour.

“It wasn’t the money that was promised,” she said. “He made false promises [...] I felt stupid, but also angry.”

Student Edgar Zarzaso says Black took him for $500 in 1999. Black, he said, had called him after getting his telephone number from a resume the 30-year-old man had dropped off during his job hunt.

“[Black] said, ‘I have all these contacts in the industry you want’,” said Zarzaso. “I opened the file, paid the $500 and never heard from him again.”

Zarzaro claims he didn¹t pursue Black in the courts because he felt it would be a waste of time.

“I just felt that if I have to put so much time and effort into it, I’d rather be looking for a job,” he said, adding that filing a complaint to the Consumer Protection Office did not get far.

“They weren’t that helpful - they said, ‘oh, yes, we¹ve heard of him’,” he said. When Zarzaso asked the office the chances of bringing Harris to justice, “they were like, ‘not really unless we have enough complaints against him, but we don’t have enough’.”

The Suburban has unearthed 29 complaints against Black and his various companies filed with the Consumer Protection Office since 1996.

In 2000, Black was fined $2,000 for breaking the Consumer Protection Act, according to spokesman Georges-André Levac.

“If caught a second time, the judge might increase the fine, [up to] $30,000,” said Levac. But he says it would be hard to shut down Black’s businesses. Meanwhile, Black continues to operate, says Levac. And the Consumer Protection keeps on piling up complaints. The last one was filed on Jan. 8, 2002.

The Consumer Protection Office’s website shows Black isn’t the only person to have run afoul of the law by charging for job leads. In 2000, Montrealer Mireille Bussière was fined $400 for getting an advance payment for a promise of employment at home.

The bottom line, Levac says, is that people should know better than to pay for job leads.

“This is very unusual and aberrant because it is the companies wanting to recruit people who pay these job placement agencies.”

Levac says most of those convicted of breaking the Consumer Protection Act change their approach - or their lives.

“Usually they change their fields [of business] or they quit the province and go somewhere else, west or to the U.S. they make sure they are forgotten.”

Harris Black denies he is still in the business.

“The company is actually no longer active,” said Black. “I was not interested in continuing in that field...I don’t own any company.”

However, records show that Employment 2000 has moved from 4480 Côte de Liesse to a new location. Documents obtained by The Suburban show that Harris is still listed as running several companies, including Addition 2000, Emploi 2000, Find-A-Job, Phoenix, and Roxton Marketing. Black also denies the scam allegations.
 

 

If you have information on Harris Black, contact us at senseigrm@sympatico.ca.