EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION: Australia’s largest LGBTIQ publishing house Evo Media has been labelled a “sham company” allegedly engaging in widespread “fraud” against employees and advertisers while being criminally operated by a banned company director. That’s according to current and recent senior staff members who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in superannuation and entitlements and feel let down by corporate regulators like the ATO and ASIC.
The scandal has also drawn in the NSW Government and other big players with taxpayer-funded organisations such as the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) and Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras alleged to have turned a blind eye in their dealings with Evo Media since at least 2013 after being made aware of the rorts. True Crime News Weekly editor Serkan Ozturk attempts to get to the bottom of a corporate con fast becoming the talk across media, politics, business and the nation’s LGBTIQ community.
- EVO MEDIA DIRECTOR MARK ANTHONY SELLS VAUCLUSE HOME FOR $6 MILLION AND BUYS INNER-CITY CAFE BUT STILL REFUSES TO PAY WAGES OR SUPER FOR YEARS AS EMPLOYEE PLEAS TO THE ATO FALL ON DEAF EARS
- MR ANTHONY’S ROMANTIC PARTNER DEAN BELL ACTED AS FRONT FOR HIM TO OPERATE EVO MEDIA ILLEGALLY AGAINST ASIC REGULATIONS
- ACON CEO NICOLAS PARKHILL SENT “ON LEAVE” AS SCANDAL WIDENS AMID QUESTIONS ABOUT MILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS WASTED WITH ACON KNOWING ABOUT ALLEGED RORTS FOR OVER 4 YEARS
- MENACING “CEASE & DESIST” AND DEFAMATION THREATS SENT BY FORMER EVO MEDIA “SENIOR MANAGER” TURNED HIGH-PROFILE ACON EMPLOYEE, REG DOMINGO, WHO ADMITS HE MAY LOSE HIS NEW JOB
- CHARITIES, HEALTH GROUPS, GOVERNMENT-FUNDED ORGANISATIONS & ARTS FESTIVALS “RIPPED OFF” BY ALLEGED CIRCULATION RORTS FOR YEARS
- TUG-OF-WAR OVER SAMESAME WEBSITE WITH FORMER OWNER JUNKEE MEDIA NOW WANTING IT BACK
A phoenix scam is when a company reforms essentially as its prior self after collapsing to avoid paying creditors. When former employees of Evolution Publishing were offered contracts with the new entity, Evo Media said it would “take responsibility for your continuity of service, accrued entitlements, superannuation and commissions”. The mission for the new company was to “invest, develop and deliver in diverse media channels servicing the LGBTI community”.
LISTEN TO EVO MEDIA COMPANY DIRECTOR MARK ANTHONY GO ALL SILENT WHEN CONFRONTED BY TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY
Websites for the company’s publications such as Gay News Network and SameSame are now suspended after web masters switched off servers due to non-payment of services. Employees have been forced to work from home after Mr Anthony could no longer pay rent for an office. Staff have not been paid in full or on time for over six months, with employees not receiving any pay slips since September 2016. According to his own spreadsheets, Mr Anthony was aware that he owed employees about $300,000 in unpaid superannuation just in 2013.
UPDATE – SEE THE REACTION TO OUR INVESTIGATION AND FIND OUT HOW EVO MEDIA & OTHERS HAVE REACTED TO THE NOW GROWING SCANDAL
The former general manager of Evolution Publishing, Dean Anthony Bell – who was named as Evo Media’s company director when it was reborn from the ashes of Evolution Publishing in March 2013 and has been in a romantic relationship with Mr Anthony – is alleged to have acted as a front to allow Mr Anthony to run the ‘new’ company.
While apparently not having enough money to pay employees their superannuation for four years, Mr Anthony had enough capital to purchase a café 12-18 months ago in the same Woolloomooloo building where Evo Media used to be based until last December. Mr Bell, while nominally the director of Evo Media, can normally be seen pulling coffees at the Locanda Olivetti cafe and serving customers. Suppliers to the café who True Crime News Weekly spoke to said that they too are not being paid the tens of thousands of dollars that they are owed. Bizarrely, Mr Anthony has been collating detailed Excel spreadsheets of the amount of superannuation he owes to Evo Media employees going back years but seemingly simply refuses to pay them.
Mr Anthony – who once allegedly told an employee that he didn’t care if he was sued because he is “richer than God” – has also continually refused to pay staff their superannuation or owed wages despite selling a house in Vaucluse in Sydney’s exclusive eastern suburbs 12 months ago for just under $6 million.
Both Mr Anthony and Mr Bell refused to provide a comment in response to this investigation despite numerous attempts by True Crime News Weekly to contact them at work, by email or on their mobile phone numbers. True Crime News Weekly did successfully get through to Mr Anthony who simply went all silent after confirming his identity when his mother passed the phone onto him.
A current employee who wants to be only identified as ‘Adrian’ confirmed to True Crime News Weekly that staff haven’t been properly paid their wages since September 2016 while employees were left completely out of pocket for at least two months just a few weeks ago.
Adrian himself had his home’s electricity disconnected after failing to receive wages and has now been threatened with eviction by his landlord.
“I can’t even pay any bills,” he admitted. “I’m going to be evicted from my place.”
‘Adrian’ – who has worked in sales for Evo Media for three years – said he was no longer “surviving” after his savings had been decimated by the unscrupulous behaviour of Mr Anthony and Mr Bell. He believes he is owed at least $5,000 in unpaid wages, annual leave and other entitlements as well as 12-24 months of superannuation.
“I’m an honest person who has to live in this community. I’m not prepared to do dodgy stuff for Mark, especially when he is not even paying his own staff,” he said.
“I’ve been so busy with running around trying to survive. Any money I had saved is totally gone.
“My power was disconnected and I’ve been battling with Origin Energy to reconnect it. I can’t even focus on getting a new job.
“I’d like to know where all this money from advertisers has gone over the past six months because it certainly hasn’t been spent on staff wages or even paying suppliers.”
Among its assets, Evo Media is the publisher of SX magazine, MCV magazine, Queensland Pride magazine, Blaze magazine as well as the LGBTIQ websites Gay News Network and the high-profile SameSame forum – which its former owner, Junkee Media, is busy attempting to reclaim after not receiving the full fee Evo Media agreed to pay for the website in September 2015.
The Tax Office itself has also been drawn into the scandal with dozens of employees reporting Evo Media for the long-term non-payment of superannuation over the past four years, yet all their complaints have apparently fallen on deaf ears.
The ATO has not provided any real assistance to reclaim their unpaid superannuation, employees told True Crime News Weekly, despite many of them making repeat reports to the tax bureaucracy.
Freelance contributors have told True Crime News Weekly that Evo Media has also failed to pay them for over half-a-year.
“[I] was promised pay of $350 for my work,” one freelance writer revealed. “I still haven’t received a cent and that was over six months ago.
“I thought I was the only one.”
During the changeover from Evolution Publishing, the new company gave contracts to employees stating Evo Media would pay the superannuation and other entitlements they were still owed from during their time at Evolution Publishing.
DO YOU KNOW MORE? CONTACT TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY
Internal company documents provided to True Crime News Weekly as well as testimony from more than a dozen employees suggest that this time more than $500,000 is owed in just superannuation alone with tens of thousands of dollars owed to staff in unpaid wages, entitlements and sales commissions.
Sales staff and senior editorial staff who were employed by both Evolution Publishing and Evo Media have also confirmed that the company would regularly not print or distribute full runs of magazines despite pocketing millions of dollars over the years from LGBTIQ organisations and government-funded groups such as the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON), Victoria AIDS Council, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, City of Sydney council, area health services and arts organisations and festivals such as Feast, Midsumma, Adelaide Fringe Festival and Sydney Festival.
On more than a few occasions, magazines were simply not printed at all, according to staff. There are claims that Evo Media’s flagship SX magazine has not been printed at all for at least a month around the time of the Sydney Mardi Gras, a period which usually attracts the most advertorial dollars for the magazine. The last SX magazine uploaded online was the March 6 issue. Of course, that too can no longer be viewed due to the websites owned by Evo Media being suspended by its webmasters.
“IT’S CRIMINAL”: A TALE OF GREED, FRAUD AND MAGAZINES NEVER PRINTED
Ron Hughes, 55, was the longserving editor of Adelaide-based Blaze magazine, a title that was purchased by Evolution Publishing in 2008. Mr Hughes, who is the full-time carer for his elderly and ill father, was made redundant in September 2016 after eight years with Evolution Publishing and then Evo Media.
Mr Hughes told True Crime News Weekly he is now surviving on Centrelink benefits after being owed tens of thousands of dollars in superannuation as well as his redundancy package which has still not been paid to him after more than six months.
“Most of us employees were there and some still there because we want to make a difference to our community,” Mr Hughes, who spent 18 years working in LGBTIQ media, said.
“But in essence, many of us have wasted years of our lives waiting for Mr Anthony and Mr Bell to do the right thing by employees and the community but they have simply left a trail of destruction.”
Mr Hughes says the mistreatment by the company as well as lingering questions over how many magazines were ever printed has left him in one of the most depressing situations of his life.
“Over the last few years I regularly got phone calls from people questioning why they hadn’t seen an edition of Blaze for a long period of time,” he recalled to True Crime News Weekly.
“I had no idea what to say because I was never informed by the company or anyone in Sydney that magazines weren’t being printed and I would only find out when I got these phone calls from community members or our advertising partners. And the company was taking money from charities, government funded organisations and arts festivals. It was embarrassing.”
LISTEN AGAIN TO EVO MEDIA COMPANY DIRECTOR MARK ANTHONY GO ALL SILENT WHEN CONFRONTED BY TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY
Mr Hughes says he lost his best sales employee because of prolonged bullying of her by senior staff at the Sydney office.
“She was a lovely person but the publishers back in Sydney would regularly leave her in tears after screaming at her and I don’t know why they treated her like that as she was great at her job,” he said.
Mr Hughes explained how Blaze magazine was the only “regular voice” for the South Australian queer community but that he now felt “shame and guilt” that the public and advertisers had been “cheated”.
“Employees, advertisers, government organisations, arts organisations, festivals, suppliers and the LGBTIQ community as a whole have all been let down and ripped off,” Mr Hughes said.
When asked why only one employee publicly spoke out about the potential criminality of Evolution Publishing before it was liquidated in 2013, Mr Hughes admitted there was “a culture of cowardice”.
“We were all worried for our own jobs and depressed by the situation but truth be told a lot of people had an inkling that things were not quite right a little while after the Global Financial Crisis [in 2008]” he said.
Former colleagues of Mr Hughes have backed his story of an unethical culture at both companies, and have also shared his questions over magazines regularly not being printed.
“Ron was left isolated for so long and then they just got rid of him,” current sales employee ‘Adrian‘ told True Crime News Weekly.
“In July 2016, I got calls from advertisers wondering why Queensland Pride magazine wasn’t around. It seems like it wasn’t printed at all. And ever since I raised it with the company I began to get bullied by Mark and he also cut me off from communication.”
‘Adrian’ says he still hasn’t been officially fired or even had a phone call with the company after his messages about thousands of dollars in unpaid wages earlier this year went unanswered for months.
“I had pride in Queensland Pride, but it’s a shame what Mark has done,” he said.
“I’ve basically stopped doing any work for them as they haven’t paid me for so long but they haven’t even called to fire me. They don’t care for anyone outside of Sydney. That’s their bubble. Mark’s not as honest as what he makes out but what he’s hiding, who knows.”
Former sales account manager, Kieren Hunt, worked for both Evolution Publishing and Evo Media over two stints for a total of seven years and left in 2015. He said the alleged circulation rorts, advertising fraud and mistreatment of employees were a central part in how Mr Anthony and Mr Bell did business in both companies.
“They have magazines like SX, MCV, Queensland Pride and Blaze and they were a part of our community. I am gay obviously,” Mr Hunt said.
“And I worked there for a long time for poor pay and under bad conditions. I did it because I wanted to give back to the community.”
Mr Hunt estimates he is owed close to $30,000 in superannuation and more than $10,000 in sales commissions.
“What he [Mr Anthony] is doing is criminal and it’s fraud. He’s stealing money from people’s pockets. By law he is meant to pay at least nine per cent in super and he is literally taking that money out of people’s pockets.”
WHAT WAS THE MILLION-DOLLAR RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACON AND EVO MEDIA ABOUT AND WHO DOES IT INVOLVE?
Based in Sydney, ACON alone has given millions of dollars to Evolution Publishing and Evo Media despite its CEO Nicolas Parkhill being aware since at least 2013 that the companies were not paying their employees’ superannuation, their wages in full or on time, or even printing or distributing copies of magazines to the levels claimed.
ACON would regularly promote its important health messages about STIs and social issues within the glossy pages of SX magazine and other titles Evo Media published in print and online. At one point, ACON had a minimal annual spend of $200,000-$300,000 with the company.
Mr Parkhill was sent a detailed written message four years ago warning him of rorts occurring before the liquidation of Evolution Publishing. Since that moment in early 2013, ACON continued to spend large with Evo Media for the next four years, with $10,000 given just for a mention on the content marketing page CHECKUP.
The government-funded body also for some reason decided to partner with Evo Media for its prestigious Honour Awards – promoted as the night of nights to celebrate the great and good of the LGBTIQ community. ACON would not reveal to True Crime News Weekly the total amount of funds it had directed towards the media company over the past four years.
“ACON’s dealings with Evo Media, and all our suppliers, are always undertaken in good faith. In light of the allegations you have made, we will be seeking an urgent meeting with Evo Media,” Mr Parkhill wrote in a letter to True Crime News Weekly this month.
“Of course, we are concerned for any employees that are not being paid by their employer, in any business. This would be particularly concerning if that was the case with an ACON supplier.
“We hope to address this issue, along with the others that you have raised, at the meeting we are seeking with Evo Media.”
ACON also operates Pride in Diversity – the corporate program that has recently come under fire from activists and made front page news for allowing corporations and organisations to join its ‘inclusion’ program while at the same time those groups continuing to host anti-LGBTIQ Christian extremists in senior positions of power.
Mr Parkhill didn’t respond to questions from True Crime News Weekly on whether ACON felt “duped” by Evo Media with many of its important promotional and health messages never seen by the large amount of readers the publisher had claimed for years.
WHO IS ACON’S REG DOMINGO AND WHY DID THE FORMER EVO MEDIA “SENIOR MANAGER” THREATEN TO “CEASE & DESIST” THIS STORY AND SUE TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY FOR DEFAMATION ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS?
In March, ACON rewarded long-term senior Evolution Publishing and Evo Media employee, Reg Domingo, with a high-profile and well-paid job at the government-funded health body as its new Head of Media and Marketing. Following a decade of loyal service with both incarnations of the media company, Mr Domingo resigned from Evo Media in late February of this year apparently because he had become sick of dealing with employees, suppliers and contributors demanding overdue payments.
When approached by True Crime News Weekly this month, Mr Domingo threatened a defamation suit after questions were posed about his involvement with Evolution Publishing and Evo Media and whether he was a party to or aware of unethical or potential criminal behaviour.
We specifically asked him about his knowledge of Mr Anthony being in his role as company director illegally and whether he was aware of advertising fraud and circulation rorts taking place as well as about the gross underpayment of superannuation.
Mr Domingo then attempted to threaten True Crime News Weekly with a menacing “cease and desist” legal letter, a move which has obviously been ignored as we believe this investigation to be of great public interest.
Mr Domingo engaged Dowson Turco Lawyers to represent him – a Newtown based LGBTIQ law firm that has a close relationship with ACON, having won at least two ACON Honour Awards in the past three years. Nicholas Stewart, a partner at Dowson Turco, also happens to be a close friend of Mr Domingo and once wrote a semi-regular column for SX magazine.
In written answers provided to True Crime News Weekly through his legal team, Mr Domingo attempted to downplay his role at the companies, suggesting he was “not an officer of Evo Media” and was only “responsible for editorial and creative decisions” and “was not responsible for circulation, printing or distribution of any magazines”.
But on Mr Domingo’s last day at the office, Mr Anthony lauded the long-serving senior employee’s dedication to the company and referred to him as a “Senior Manager” and “Managing Editor”.
“As you are all aware Reg takes flight this week after ten years working with the company,” Mr Anthony wrote in a company-wide memo dated March 6, 2017.
“Reg has been an explanatory Senior Manager; his [sic] shown dedication and loyalty not only to the company but to his staff and his products in particular SX and GNN.
“Looking over the years of Reg’s Managing Editor role the company launched City view, Cherrie and Summer Guide with two revamps of AX to AXN to CULT. Online Reg underpinned the spectacular growth of GNN followed by Gaylife and CHECKUP. ACON is gaining a well respected member of the GLBTI community.”
An email dated Thursday, September 10, 2015 sent from Mr Anthony to only three Evo Media employees – one of them being Mr Domingo – unveils sales, circulation and print targets in a secretive major overhaul of the publishing house under a plan dubbed ‘Project Reinvent’. An 84-slide Powerpoint presentation tagged “private and confidential” is attached to the email along with a detailed seven-month “calendar of events and actions dates”.
“Gentlemen,” Mr Anthony writes to Mr Domingo and two other employees.
“As discussed the project will end at the end of September with the strategic items not undertaken moved to next year’s strategic review. The follow on or review items that fall outside the end of September will be captured within our weekly management meeting which will replace the Project Reinvent meetings.
“A lot has been achieved during this project and there is still some work to do done in this remaining month. Please review the attached documents and action what has been allocated to you for the next meeting.”
Colleagues of Mr Domingo have also confirmed he was very much aware of claims of advertising fraud, circulation rorts and the consistent non-payment of superannuation and underpayment of regular wages and contributors for years, going back to at least 2013.
“That’s ridiculous,” former Sales Manager, Matthew Hambrook, said when made aware of Mr Domingo’s denials. “Reg and I had many conversations about circulation over the years I was there.”
Mr Hambrook said during his second stint with Evolution Publishing in 2011-12, sales staff were told to tell advertisers and promotional partners that over 20,000 copies of SX were printed weekly.
“The print run used to say 25,000,” Mr Hambrook confirmed.
Other colleagues told True Crime News Weekly that they believed Mr Domingo had let down his journalistic ethics at the very least.
“Reg started in about 2006 at around the time I did,” Mr Hunt said. “He turned a blind eye to a lot of things that were going on there. And I just assumed he was being paid accordingly.”
True Crime News Weekly discovered that print numbers for SX magazine were closer to only 5,000-6,000 weekly copies five years ago after calling one of Evolution Publishing’s previous printers, Pegasus Print Group,
Based in Blacktown in Sydney’s west, employees at the print company who True Crime News Weekly spoke to seemed to be shocked that Mr Anthony was continuing to not pay his employees their superannuation but pleased that some further light would be shed upon his activities once again. The print company were left owed more than $250,000 by Mr Anthony when Evolution Publishing collapsed in 2013.
“I do have to question why ACON and some of the other promotional partners kept using Evo Media as they knew about the issues with circulation and distribution going back years,” Mr Hambrook added.
Mr Hunt also confirmed the alleged circulation and distribution scam was common knowledge and was still going on during his second stint with the companies in 2013-15.
“When I was at Evo Media after 2013 I’m sure they were saying to advertisers that there were at least 9,000 copies of SX a week,” he said.
“But I saw some of the invoices that were coming through from the printing company and they were printing only 2,000-2,500 copies.”
Evo Media’s most recent printers, SOS Print + Media, would not reveal how many magazines they were currently printing but a source told True Crime News Weekly that numbers would fluctuate regularly.
“It’s a fairly quick publication to print. It prints on the weekend and out it goes,” an employee with the print company said. “And … it varies. For example, around Mardi Gras week it would be higher than others.”
The employee did confirm that they too have had difficulties dealing with Evo Media.
“It’s mostly the owner that could be the problem,” the SOS Print + Media staff member said.
DO YOU KNOW MORE? CONTACT TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY
A senior journalist who was employed by Evolution Publishing told True Crime News Weekly that Mr Domingo never once raised his superannuation issues with company directors despite being aware of them and the distress it was causing him.
“When his ethics were questioned only a few months after I started in the job, his entire attitude was ‘meh’,” the former Evolution Publishing employee said.
“I knew then if ever I found myself backed into a corner by Dean, Peter (Peter Walton – a former publisher who was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and GHB) or Mark, I’d get no help from Reg, much less support.
“That told me every … little thing I needed to know about him – spineless.”
Mr Domingo claimed to True Crime News Weekly that on “several occasions” he told Mr Anthony that he would be “forgoing his own salary so that junior employees had priority”. According to him, this occurred on three occasions during his eight-year tenure as a senior manager when Mr Anthony informed him that “cash flow was tight”.
Another Evo Media employee however confessed to True Crime News Weekly: “We are all guilty of supporting Mark for such a long time and not doing things earlier.”
Evolution Publishing itself was the child of a previous phoenix scam following the collapse of the Satellite Media Group in 2000 and the later arrest of its former managing director, Greg Fisher, for attempting to import $100,000 worth of cocaine into Australia. Fisher claimed he turned to drug dealing after he was left owing $25 million to investors.
True Crime News Weekly can also confirm that Mr Domingo received numerous work email messages from Mr Anthony dating back to at least 2015 where he signs off as Evo Media’s “director”.
During his entire 10-year employment with the companies, Mr Domingo never reported Mr Anthony or Mr Bell to the ATO, ASIC, ACCC or other authorities. His lawyers confirmed Mr Domingo “himself is owed significant superannuation entitlements” thought to be in the region of $30,000-$50,000.
Mr Domingo only reported his company directors to the ATO this month, and only after receiving questions over a number of days from True Crime News Weekly. His lawyers claimed that Mr Domingo “rejects the suggestion that he was a party to corruption or corporate misconduct”. The former journalist who rose to senior management after starting fresh out of university as an intern at Evolution Publishing, also claimed True Crime News Weekly was only asking him questions out of “malice”.
However, at a meeting with True Crime News Weekly at Newtown’s Bank Hotel on Sunday, April 2 where a third party was also present, Mr Domingo, who seemed anxious and nervous, admitted that he was afraid of losing his new job with ACON.
NSW HEALTH “CONCERNED” ABOUT “SERIOUS” ISSUES
NSW Health has been made aware of ACON’s involvement with the scandal, with much of the NGO’s $10 million-plus annual budget being derived from NSW taxpayers. When alerted to the claims, a source within NSW Health told True Crime News Weekly that the issues raised were “concerning and serious”. Publicly though NSW Health isn’t doing much talking.
“I note you have received a letter from ACON and that organisation will be discussing the contents of your emails with Evo Media,” NSW Health director of public affairs, Jenny Dennis, wrote in an email to True Crime News Weekly.
“NSW Health will not be commenting.”
Meanwhile, with the scandal widening, ACON’s CEO, Nicolas Parkhill, has coincidentally decided to go on leave for two weeks “until Tuesday 18 April 2017”.
True Crime News Weekly contacted other major advertising and promotional partners such as Sydney Mardi Gras, Victoria AIDS Council, Brisbane Pride, Aurora Group, the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, Tropical Fruits, Big Gay Day, Sydney Festival, Gay Ski Week, and Pink Media Group, all of whom have remained quiet on the growing scandal.
The board of Mardi Gras much like ACON was warned in writing about Evo Media in 2013. Mardi Gras’s PR flaks at Cardinal Spin didn’t do much spinning for once this week either, instead preferring to keep silent for some strange reason along with all those associated with the LGBTIQ festival.
None of the promotional or advertising partners responded when asked if they were worried for the welfare of LGBTIQ employees and others at Evo Media.
Mr Hunt said promotional partners should have been doing much more research on the type of company they were dealing with.
“But particularly ACON because there is much more government funding going into them,” he said. “Certainly ACON should have been performing much more due diligence than what has happened.”
ARE EVO MEDIA TRADING WHILE INSOLVENT?
Just as concerning, there are claims Evo Media may be trading while insolvent with True Crime News Weekly being informed that since September 2016, employees have not been receiving any pay slips or being paid their wages in full or on time. Emails seen by True Crime News Weekly sent to Mr Anthony and Mr Domingo in February show employees were not paid at all for two months, with some senior staff members such as new Evo Media editorial director, Cec Busby, and SameSame editor, Samuel Leighton-Dore, complaining of being forced to default on their mortgage and being pushed into severe mental stress.
“I have organised for my mortgage payment which defaulted again last Friday to come out this evening,” Ms Busby wrote in an email to Mr Anthony and CCed to Mr Domingo on February 1 while employed beneath Mr Domingo as news editor.
“My mortgage is in in jeopardy from now having three consecutive default notices due to Evo’s lack of salary payments … This is a most stressful situation.”
Less than two weeks later, Mr Leighton-Dore wrote in an email that he was suffering serious health concerns due to the stress of not receiving his full wage or any wage at all for months on end.
“I’ve currently got $0.00 in my account. Obviously this means I can’t really travel or eat or buy the toilet paper I need for the house. This constant failure to be paid my wage, which isn’t even my full wage, is taking a massive toll on my mental health,” Mr Leighton-Dore wrote on February 10 in an email to Mr Anthony and Mr Domingo.
“Whether you have the money or not, you owe us communication at the very least. We are human beings with lives and feelings and we care very much about our roles but right now we are being treated very poorly and our daily lives are being impacted greatly.”
Evo Media was forced to move from its offices on 140 William Street, Woolloomooloo in December last year after being locked out by the building owner after owing months in back-rent before the company was then forced to vacate the office it moved to on 130 Bourke St, Darlinghurst just a few weeks later in February.
True Crime News Weekly has been informed employees are now forced to work from home while at the same time battling crippling bills along with rental and mortgage notices after not receiving wages for months on end. Telstra also cut off employees’ mobile phones after Mr Anthony consistently failed to pay telephone bills.
“It’s true,” a current senior Evo Media employee admitted. “Our Queensland sales guy is now in Centrelink literally crying and begging for help.”
WHAT WAS WITH THE JUNKEE DEAL FOR SAMESAME?
True Crime News Weekly has discovered that Evo Media has also failed to abide by the contract of sale when purchasing SameSame from Junkee Media in September 2015. True Crime News Weekly understands the agreed sale price was in the region of $80,000-$100,000, with some of the fee to be paid upfront and the remainder in installments.
True Crime News Weekly has been informed by Junkee Media publisher and founder, Tim Duggan, that his company “did not perform any official due diligence” on Evo Media despite being aware of media articles dating to 2013 alleging its owners were not appropriately paying their suppliers or employees. Mr Duggan insisted all his comments to True Crime News Weekly be off-the-record.
At the time of the sale just 18 months ago, Mr Duggan commented over Twitter that SameSame was “in very good hands” with Evo Media.
Some in the community believe it may be too late to save SameSame with the damage to the brand already done.
“Junkee is probably wasting its time because they’ve dirtied that name so badly,” Mr Hunt said. “I knew that would happen as well.”
DO YOU KNOW MORE? CONTACT TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY
Another senior sales staff member who resigned in February after more than 10 years with Evolution Publishing and then Evo Media told True Crime News Weekly he was owed tens of thousands of dollars in both superannuation and entitlements.
“I have never come across a business owner or company director as incompetent and lacking in empathy for their employees as Mark Anthony,” explained the former senior employee who only wanted to be identified as ‘Chris’.
“I ended up reporting him to the Fair Work Commission just a few weeks before I resigned and I also urged all the sales staff to do the same.
“Everything is pointing to a repeat of 2013 where Mark and Dean will liquidate the company to try and get away from their responsibilities to their employees.”
‘Chris’, who was employed as the National Partnerships Manager for close to a decade, admitted he was aware of the problems at Evo Media and Evolution Publishing for years.
“If you are going to dump Reg in the same boat as Mark and Dean then you’ll have to put me there also,” he said.
Mr Hunt said the mental toll of working for such an unethical company was so high he required long-term counselling to get over it. With renewed pride in his voice, Mr Hunt explained how his new job with a major Australian company was light years removed from his experiences with Evolution Publishing and its later incarnation of Evo Media.
“It took me a long time to be myself after I worked there,” Mr Hunt told True Crime News Weekly.
“It’s a total sham company to be honest.”
A senior employee who is still working at Evo Media confided to colleagues that he felt embarrassed by the situation.
“It’s the first time in my life that I’m ashamed to be gay,” the employee said. “The gay community is supposed to support and help each other. The company was supposed to be a voice for the community but it is mistreating so many people, their rights and affecting so many lives.”
Other current and recent staff members have confirmed that circulation figures for magazines were inflated by at least three or four times what was actually being printed and distributed at any one time.
The ACCC had reportedly opened an investigation into allegations of circulation fraud in 2013 when Evolution Publishing controlled the mastheads before its liquidation.
IF THEY CAN’T RUN A MEDIA BUSINESS PROPERLY, HOW ABOUT A CAFE?
But Evo Media employees and advertisers haven’t been the only ones shortchanged by Mr Anthony and Mr Bell. True Crime News Weekly spoke to suppliers for the cafe the couple own and operate on 140, William St, Woolloomooloo which is on the ground floor of the same building Evo Media used to have its head offices. It’s believed they have run the business since at least early 2016.
Arnie Colaiacomo, from AC Butchery in Leichhardt – a Sydney inner-west favourite for generations – told True Crime News Weekly he stopped supplying meat to the café operated by the couple after Mr Anthony owed him $5000 last September.
“He was already two to three months behind then,” Mr Colaiacomo said. “He and Dean owe money to every single supplier for the café – wine suppliers, the fishmonger, the fruit and veg guys, everybody.
“I became a ballbuster and was sending him emails every day but he still owes me $1,600.”
Mr Colaiacomo said he has never come across any person as “arrogant” as Mr Anthony, particularly someone who owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to suppliers, employees and creditors.
“When I asked him [Mr Anthony] about the debt he responded, ‘I’m not your bookkeeper or therapist’. This is a bloke who owes heaps of people money and he is acting like that? Some day, someone may come up and give them a knock on the head if they keep acting like this,” Mr Colaiacomo told True Crime News Weekly.
“Even the old café owner says they still owe her money from its sale as well. That cafe went from being one of our best customers to one of our worst, just like that. These guys shouldn’t be running any kind of business.”
True Crime News Weekly has been informed that Mr Anthony was relying on finances from his own mother to prop up his varied business interests but that money dried up in September 2016, right around the time when his employees at Evo Media and suppliers for the cafe began noticing severe underpayment of wages or non-payment for their services.
WHERE HAVE THE ATO AND OTHER CORPORATE REGULATORS BEEN?
Former Queensland pride editor Andrew Blythe who worked for Evo Media’s previous incarnation Evolution Publishing in 2011 and 2012 has detailed to True Crime News Weekly a more than three year battle with the companies and ATO for his superannuation which ended up going nowhere and leaving him with nothing.
Mr Blythe had originally made an official complaint to the ATO soon after leaving his position in April 2012 but it was close to 18 months later when the ATO first responded. By that time Evolution Publishing had been put into liquidation with Mr Anthony and Mr Bell creating the entity Evo Media to take over the operations of the publishing house.
“The ATO said they couldn’t do anything when they did actually respond because of the liquidation, saying it was up to the liquidators to list me as a creditor. I contacted the liquidators but there was only $66,000 recovered with pretty much all of that going to the liquidator as administration fees. So basically no creditor, including me, got anything,” Mr Blythe explained.
“I was also aware there was an ACCC investigation into Evolution Publishing at the time over claims of circulation rorts but they were unable to provide any information either.
“It’s like all these government departments and others simply don’t want to communicate and there’s little option left for anybody.”
Just last month, a Federal Parliament Senate committee heard evidence that over $5.5 billion worth of superannuation is thought not to be paid by employers to almost three million workers in a single 12 month period.
Some in the industry also suggest that small businesses and other company owners are using the super they owe workers instead like their own personal credit card and transforming their employees into “unwilling creditors”.
“They often use it for cash flow,” Cath Bowtell, CEO of Industry Fund Services, told the New Daily. “These businesses are effectively borrowing that money without the employee knowing – they’re an unwilling and unknowledgeable creditor.”
Mr Hunt told True Crime News Weekly he was driven to his wit’s end by the lack of any real action taken by any government authority.
“I’ve lodged Evolution Publishing with the ATO as they owe me around $19,000 in super. They didn’t do anything about it. I kept in contact with the liquidators when Evolution was liquidated. They didn’t do anything about it,” Mr Hunt explained.
“I’ve lodged Evo Media to the ATO. They still haven’t done anything about it. When I lodged my issue about unpaid commissions ASIC were unsure if they could help me. It’s not right. Government departments shouldn’t allow these businesses to continue trading.”
A spokesperson for ASIC said the corporate regulator could not provide any comment on Evo Media or Mr Anthony and Mr Bell in the event that it could prejudice any future court cases but confirmed that they “assess all reports of misconduct we receive”.
“We are not trying to minimise the possible gravity of the situation as we regularly take on cases where people end up in jail,” the spokesperson told True Crime News Weekly.
The ATO also told True Crime News Weekly that it cannot comment on any investigations it may be conducting into Evo Media or Mr Anthony and Mr Bell due to privacy laws.
“However, we take non-payment by employers of superannuation guarantee seriously and we investigate all reports of non-compliance made to us,” a spokesperson said.
Asked if that had been his experience with the regulators, Mr Blythe was unequivocal.
“No, far from it,” he said. “And we still have employees and others being defrauded in the same manner to myself years later. It’s like nothing has changed and nobody with authority or power wants to put a stop to it. This is a case of fraud – the fraud of employees, advertisers, suppliers, and the community – plain and simple.”
True Crime News Weekly is aware that Mr Anthony currently has a number of cases filed against him with the Fair Work Commission and various ombudsman by recently departed staff. Dozens of employees with both Evolution Publishing and Evo Media are also now considering launching a class action to recoup their superannuation and other entitlements. Former and current employees who may be affected can make contact at: email@example.com
DISCLOSURE: True Crime News Weekly editor Serkan Ozturk was employed with Evolution Publishing between 2011-13 and was the person who first blew the whistle on the company over its consistent failure to pay employee entitlements and superannuation as well as claims of circulation and advertising rorts. If you have any information about this investigation, get in contact with True Crime News Weekly.