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Employees not paid for work after Commerce City pipeline contracting business files for bankruptcy

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More than 70 employees of a longstanding Commerce City business are out of a job and paycheck after the company filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

“It’s just a brutal slap in the face,” said Steven Ocana.

Up until, April 4, Ocana was an employee with JBS Pipeline, an excavating pipe contracting company that’s been in the Commerce City area for more than 20 years.

“We got a text message sent out [Thursday] saying all equipment and everybody needs to be in the shop. For now, we’re shut down,” said Ocana. “Then, Friday morning, the president came out and told us that they had filed bankruptcy and that we were out of a job. So, we had literally 12 hours’ notice of ‘do we know, do we not know,’ before we came in and we were told we were bankrupt.”

“I was angry because we had been asking questions [about] what’s going on,” said Shawn Greenwood.

Greenwood started at the company three months ago. She says she quickly started to notice warning signs about JBS Pipeline struggling to keep up financially.

“It wasn’t adding up and I couldn’t figure out why,” she said.

Employees noticed issues like accounts they typically worked with to complete construction projects refusing to work with them or certain payments not being fulfilled.

“I personally opened the mail, so, I saw every notice we received. Looks like we weren’t paying anything. We just stopped paying everything, but no one was saying anything,” said Talisha Spoelman, another former employee.

“None of my drivers could get fuel or certain parts that we needed or things like that because they shut the credit cards off,” said Ocana. “They told us they’d be back on, they’d be back on, until Thursday evening when we got the text message.”

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CBS


The owners of JBS Pipeline are Iron Ox Development Corporation, which is based out of Virginia and spearheaded by the Rust family. According to employees and online documents, JW Rust oversees the company in Commerce City.

Employees who used to work or had been working at JBS Pipeline for years say it wasn’t after Iron Ox Development Corporation took over the site from the previous owner in 2021 that things started to change.

“It just started to go downhill, more accounts were getting shut off and things like that, until they brought me back this year and I really learned that a lot of our accounts were permanently closed. They wouldn’t sell to us at all in any way shape or form, even on credit,” said Ocana.

Employees who were laid off say they were never paid for their weeks’ worth of work, and some were not paid out any of their vacation time.

“As a single father, I rely on my weekly paychecks. I have a daughter, I have a mortgage and for him to allow us to work all week and then at the end of the week tell us, okay, we’re done, that hurts,” said Javier Quezada.

“One of my drivers had just found out he’s having a baby,” said Ocana.

Even Cayetano Gallegos, with more than two decades dedicated to JBS, was stunned after learning the company would not pay him roughly $3,000 worth of money he earned.

“I tell you from there my reaction was, I was feeling like I was in another world,” said Gallegos.

Iron Ox Development is listed in several lawsuits in California, Utah, and Arizona. The company is being accused of securities fraud after multiple investors failed to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company.

Creditors still owed money from the company for their involvement with JBS, including over $4 million to Adams Bank, more than $660,000 to the IRS, $674,000 to Capital One, and hundreds of other people including insurance companies.

“I personally would just like to see that nobody does business with this family ever again,” said Spoelman. “I think they should not be able to do business with people. They don’t know how to handle people’s money; they don’t know how to handle people’s livelihood.”

CBS News Colorado has made numerous attempts to reach out to numbers and emails listed for JBS Pipeline, JW Rust, Iron Ox, and others listed as defendants in the bankruptcy filing, but have not heard back.

“Some of our employees that have already tried to file for their unemployment are only being told that they’re entitled to one-quarter of a year’s worth of payment even though they’ve been with the company for 20-plus years because [the company] didn’t file taxes,” said Spoelman.

Now, Spoelman says many former employees are scrambling to find new jobs, knowing they may never get their final paycheck or any sort of financial relief from JBS.

“Because we were not listed among the other 300 creditors, we individually have to file on our behalf to basically get our money,” said Spoelman. “More than likely based upon how he owes the IRS, the cities, the states in the lawsuits, we’re last to see anything. We will be lucky if we see a penny each.”

Ultimately, employees hope anyone who signs on to work with a new company does their research before they make the commitment.

“I don’t want to see anybody else get hurt the same way. I don’t want them to open up another business to seemingly just run it into the ground and mess with people’s lives,” said Ocana. “I would like to see justice, possibly jail time for them.”

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