After a year of investigation, the prosecutor of Morrow County, Ohio, has decided not to file charges against Christopher Filos, former owner of the now-shuttered HPM machinery company.
Only a very few of the alleged victims — former HPM employees who lost money paid for health coverage — expressed any interest in pursuing the case, according to the prosecutor.
“I didn't do anything. This just proves the point,” said Filos in a phone interview.
“It's unfortunate that the business failed. People got hurt unfortunately, not intentionally.”
Filos' company, Taylor's Industrial Services of Tinton Falls, N.J., bought the assets of HPM in 2001. The plant shut down in December 2009. HPM owed money for unpaid taxes and a bank loan, and to several state agencies.
In March 2011, equipment at the Mount Gilead, Ohio, plant was auctioned. The plant once made injection molding machines, extrusion lines and die-casting equipment.
Mount Gilead police executed a search warrant for employee records in January 2010, resulting in several thousand documents.
Morrow County Prosecutor Charles Howland said the rural county, with limited funding, could not afford to hire an accountant to sift through the records, but did hire a retired accountant to help. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor lent the services of a senior investigator, who last fall sent the prosecutor's office a three-page memorandum detailing the alleged theft of employee benefits.
According to a news release issued by Howland, the investigator concluded that on May 1, 2009, Filos entered into an agreement with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield for health insurance for 36 current and eight former employees.
Howland said Filos paid $30,000 for the first month's premium but failed to make payments for the next two months, June and July.
Anthem canceled the health coverage — after employees paid a total of $22,123 out of their paychecks for current employees, and through COBRA payments from the former ones.
Howland alleges Filos used that money to pay business expenses and personal property tax.
The county prosecutor's office sent out 44 letters to the alleged victims. Only six responded, and just three of them came to a meeting Jan. 18 to determine whether they wanted to pursue charges.
“I had hoped that at least 15 or 20 would show up so that the case would continue to be in the felony range,” Howland said in the news release. “Of that group, we were hoping that they would elect four or five individuals to speak on the group's behalf at the grand jury. Without the participation of the victims, we cannot go forward.”
The Morrow County Sentinel reported the story Feb. 1.
The HPM name lives on, however. A Chinese maker of injection presses and die-casting machines bought the intellectual property and customer lists at the auction. Then the company, Guangdong Yizumi Precision Machinery Co. Ltd., picked up a service center run in Marion, Ohio, by former HPM President William Flickinger.