KANSAS CITY, Mo. --A group of local employees say they now feel cheated. They signed on to work at a small start-up company called Healthy Plus LLC. Its top leaders: a former Kansas City Chiefs player and former UMKC coach. But the workers say they didn’t quite get what they bargained for.
Sean Bledsoe is listed as the head of Healthy Plus LLC with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. He used to be an assistant men’s basketball coach at UMKC. But now some of his former employees say the coach was just a good salesman, who never paid them. And it turns out, he’s got a history of leaving others high and dry.
Healthy Plus LLC is a small company that just became official with the state in June.
“Everything was great. Dream come true. 8 to 5. Monday through Friday,” former employee Stephanie Bennett said.
Stephanie says she interviewed for the job with Sean Bledsoe and Chris Smith. Right away, she had some concerns. The interview was in a nearly empty office building, and the job was with a company she couldn’t even find on Google.
“That’s when they started saying the background of who they were. Chris Smith of the former Chiefs. And then Sean Bledsoe was a former college basketball player. They found this great service to call Medicare patients,” Bennett said.
But Stephanie says her dream job quickly became a nightmare. She has time cards, proving the hours she worked. But getting paid, has been another matter.
“They just kept giving excuses after excuses. ‘Well we’ll have to call the bank. We don’t understand.’ Then they finally told us it’s going to be deposited on this day,” Bennett said.
But right after the first check went into her account, it was withdrawn by the company. It had apparently been returned for insufficient funds. On two other pay cycles, she was given paper checks. Both times, the bank told her the accounts had been closed. Stephanie says at least eight employees went weeks without any pay.
“So they knew I was very low on money. They knew I had to use my lawn mower gas to get to work. They wouldn’t compensate,” Bennett said.
She’s kept records of text messages sent between co-workers and her bosses, Sean Bledsoe and Chris Smith. In one exchange, Sean wrote he was “waiting on a seven figure wire” to get payroll going. In another with Chris, she was told there was “no need to report” to work and that they “cannot pay” which he realized might be “unsettling.”
“I said I have automatic payments, so money’s coming out that I don’t have. Then they said I need to learn to budget my money more and not live paycheck to paycheck,” Bennett said.
Sean Bledsoe’s name appears on state records not only for Healthy Plus LLC, but also for his former company, VC Medical. In connection with that business, he and his wife are currently facing a federal lawsuit which alleges they didn’t pay more than $435,000 in loans. Past employees of VC Medical have also lodged complaints on the popular jobs website Glassdoor.com, claiming that VC Medical also failed to pay employees.
Bledsoe wasn’t at the office or his house when we tried to contact him. He also didn’t return our calls and messages.
Chris Smith claimed we had the wrong number, and refused to talk about concerns with Healthy Plus, denying he had any connection to the company. However, his wife, Billie Jean Smith, is listed on the business license application for Healthy Plus LLC. Billie Jean Smith and Chris M. Smith were also co-defendants in a lawsuit for allegedly failing to pay past due medical bills. Court records reflect the two were married during the course of litigation.
As for Stephanie Bennett, she’s found a new job. She just wants to warn others about thoroughly vetting potential employers, while also hoping that maybe her old bosses will do the right thing and pay workers what they are owed.
Other employees of Healthy Plus LLC who reached out to Fox 4, but did not wish to be identified, are considering legal actions against the company.
Fox 4 also reached out to hospitals that have contracted with Healthy Plus LLC, and the company athenahealth, which works with the business. It sent us the following response:
“HealthyPlus is part of athenahealth’s More Disruption Please program (MDP), which partners with entrepreneurs, providers, and companies to offer innovative healthcare IT solutions for healthcare providers. As part of this program, athenahealth provides innovators with access to its cloud platform to introduce solutions across our provider base. Healthy Plus is a pilot partner on our Marketplace, a storefront for innovators to advertise their solution to our clients. We do not support their business specifically in contracting with hospitals, and are not aware of the allegations you have mentioned.”