The wild ride continues for owner and operator of Metropolitan Transit System's Desert Line, Pacific Imperial Railroad.
On October 19, the California Labor Commission ordered the fledgling binational railroad company to pay $90,152 in unpaid wages to former corporate secretary Jennifer Trowbridge.
According to the complaint, Trowbridge worked from February 2013 to January 2015 as a full-time corporate secretary for Pacific Imperial Railroad. During that time, Trowbridge reportedly earned $2000 a month plus vacation pay. But checks were never sent in the mail.
Near the beginning of her employment, Trowbridge as well as Pacific Imperial's executives agreed to collect their wages at a later date, when the company was financially stable. A year later, however, Trowbridge discovered that other executives had received wages. At the time, the legal counsel and president of Pacific Imperial, Donald Stoecklein, told Trowbridge, according to the complaint, "that there was not enough money to pay all of the executives and that the other executives were a higher priority."
Trowbridge and an attorney appeared before the labor commission on August 31 of this year to protest the unpaid wages. However, no representatives decided to show for the hearing. In fact, the company and its president, Stoecklein, failed to answer the complaint or respond to the summons.
Off the rails
Pacific Imperial Railroad has been plagued with scandal since in 2012 when it entered into a 99 year-lease with Metropolitan Transit System to resurrect the defunct Desert Line, a 70-mile stretch of railroad from Tecate, Mexico, to Plaster City, California. Once up and running, the line would connect manufacturing plants in Tijuana to San Diego eastward, bypassing the need for freight trains to head north into Los Angeles before turning east.
Per the agreement, Metropolitan Transit System would sign over rights to the track in exchange for one million dollars a year. To say there have been a few bumps in the line is putting it lightly.
Since 2007, when many of the same executives first took control of the former Carrizo Gorge Railway, the company has been sued numerous times. Superior Court judges have awarded former investors approximately $2 million in legal judgments. In August 2010, Border Patrol officers found 202 pounds of marijuana on one of Pacific Imperial's railcars. The company was fined $1.6 million for the offense. In addition, Pacific Imperial Railroad owes $240,000 in back taxes and former employees have accused shareholders of fraud.
The bad news continued in September of this year when former investor Christopher Larocca sued Pacific Imperial Railroad and two former executives for luring him into investing despite inner turmoil inside the company. That lawsuit is currently moving forward in San Diego Superior Court.
Stoecklein did not respond to a request for comment. The story will be updated when/if he does.