From Toblerone and Pretzels to Tripe and Polony

I have a story that I have been wanting to share for quite some time now, but because I have been fighting a vicious battle, I postponed it, until now.


I hope you ready, because I’ve decided it’s time that I share my experience and continued battles so that this might help someone who is currently experiencing doubt/worry and/or a simple warning.
I've been threatened that should I go to social media with my story, I would be taken to court by Roman Lutz and Torsten Lueddecke. I have met with a lawyer and private investigator who both (on separate occasions) told me that I am not doing any wrong by telling my story. The private investigator also told me that Roman Lutz and Torsten Lueddecke have committed criminal fraud. 

In October 2015 I started working for BlackLion Group as a Permanent Contract Graphic Designer on the launch of their start-up tourism/entertainment company. I signed a Permanent Contractor contract. I won’t lie, at the time, it was the best job I ever had. I was so happy. Finally I found a job where I was earning a good industry paying salary for a woman my age.

BlackLion Group is owned by two foreigners, Roman Lutz (Swiss) and Torsten Lueddecke (German). There were about 5 additional staff members when I started which soon grew with +- another 5 (excluding copy-writing, research and software developer freelancers). As the company grew so did my excitement.

For the first time in my life I was finally able to:
·         make it through a month without worrying about month end
·         go out every weekend - whether it be out with friends or sightseeing
·         move up from factory store clothing shopping to actual shopping centres
·         spoil loved ones
·         work from home
AND
·         best of all, upgrade my transportation!


Life was really good. Don’t get me wrong, I worked just as hard as I did partying. Literally “Work hard - Party harder”. I felt safe financially. I worked many many MANY long and late hours (8am - 2/3am the next morning became very normal) and even found myself working a few hours in a busy weekend. I worked like a boss and I loved it.

By January 2016 my life was hitting an amazing peak not worrying that my happy little world will soon came to an end. One day and completely out of the blue, my gut feeling told me “this is too good to be true”. I ignored it - DO. NOT. IGNORE. YOUR. GUT.

At the end of February I started feeling a little more insecure about my job and the company. Eventually the work flow became a little less, colleagues became more and more quiet and their morale was completely flipped upside down. Something wasn’t clicking... but life carried on.

5 March 2016 I upgrade my car despite my worries.

Then on 17 March 2016 everything changed. It started my day like any other working day. At this point I was still on such a high of getting a new car that I pushed the worries aside. Weirdly, that day I never received any communication from my colleagues, but only an email from Roman Lutz who request that I meet with him for a meeting the next day. Later that afternoon, all my previous worries and suspicions were finally confirmed. I received a message from a colleague via Skype:  




not sure if you've heard, but we no longer have jobs - BlackLion Group has gone bust






Just like that. 
Unfortunately, she thought I knew. There is absolutely no way explaining how terrified I was. What am I going to do? Pay day isn’t far... MONTH END ISN'T FAR! I never in my life experienced that amount of sheer panic. My colleague felt terrible that I had found out that way i did. Never the less, I reassured her I would still meet with Roman Lutz the next day and pretend to not know anything.

After surviving a very sleepless night, I drove through to the BlackLion Group office in Cape Town early the next morning. I walked into a dark office where only two colleagues were sitting. The atmosphere was heart breaking. There was really nothing we could say to one another, but try to talk about general things and then eventually what each one’s plans and/or solutions were going to be.

When I met with Roman Lutz, he could see I knew and there was really nothing much we could say to each other. He explained how sorry he was for the situation and hoped that I at least had some freelance work to fall back onto. I explained how I had turned clients away because all my time had been dedicated to BlackLion Group. His head dropped and I can honestly say, he felt bad. Well I thought he did. He told me the investors who had been funding the company, pulled out. They left because illegitimate figures and fake potential clients were brought forward time after time. They lost trust and rightfully so. However, they were willing to invest again on the condition:

·         that the company generates sales from the advertising space available on the BlackLion Group website. Even if it was only a very small figure.

AND

·         to redesign a new image/face for the website.


Roman Lutz  asked if my fiancé and I would be willing to stay on to help with the re-branding. He reassured me that no matter what, should investors back out, he would be able to pull money from one of his other businesses abroad. I agreed to stay.

I continued working for BlackLion Group because Roman Lutz was supposed to have been a reputable business man. We also worked really well together. He often told me I was the nicest Graphic Designer he had worked with… who wouldn’t be happy with their job after hearing that!? I put my trust in him. 

BIG MISTAKE.

I continued working very hard through April 2016 only to be told by Roman Lutz that BlackLion Group was unable to pay my fiancé (who was freelancing for the company) and I… BUT that…

first of all we will pay the outstanding amounts asap of course. then my offer/idea would be: please search immediately another job or freelance work. let me know each month how much income you generate. for e.g.- if you make only Y the first month i will give you the difference between X and Y etc. i can do this for the next 3 months if that would help. if BlackLion Group solved LONG TERM all issues and financial issues and you still would like to come back you would be more then welcome. if not i would understand of course. of course i am available for both of you at any time incl. holidays and weekends etc. for skype or meeting

He was never available for face to face meetings after I requested it numerous times, he wouldn’t even answer my calls or even accept a skype call meeting. All he would normally reply with was this:




hi claudia
unfortunately we still dont have a date. we are still working on it. i am sorry.
i hope you will find soon a new job or work.




The next three months went by and I received absolutely nothing. Nothing. Nada. There are thousands of emails between myself, fiancé and Roman Lutz who later got Torsten Lueddecke involved in our correspondence. 

Torsten Lueddecke (co-owner of BlackLion Group) argued that he was not responsible for anything owed and that BlackLion Group was only going to pay once funds became available again. Torsten Lueddecke told us that he would not be taking any money from his other 3 companies in Cape Town, because he had invested enough already. He also swore at me and threatened to make my life hell if I took my story to Social Media. Roman Lutz also ended up telling us that the clients from his other businesses never paid and therefore he couldn't pay us.

During that tough time of them letting us go, Roman Lutz moved and is currently in Malta Spain to start up another business and Torsten Lueddecke did a “business trip” to Singapore and China where he happily posted a selfie on Facebook posing with a beer:




When a beer takes a selfie and I photobomb ... I thought it was a celebrity beer as it costs the equivalent of three bottles of wine back home ... Welcome to Singapore!” 





This revved up my engine. How can one afford luxuries at that price when you know there are 22 other people struggling to put food on the table because of your negligence and irresponsibility?!

After refusing many of our alternative offers I approached the Department of Labour, Labour Law, CCMA etc. only to be told that they were unable to help due to BlackLion Group physically closing up. They could "never physically locate them"... this is despite the fact that Torsten Lueddecke has three other businesses with premises in Cape Town! 

The entire situation became a complete mess, but I continued fighting for what was rightfully mine. I sent emails begging, pleading and even compromising for what was owed. During this time, the full time staff were unable to claim their UIF because BlackLion Group had not paid over the deducted UIF from staffs' salaries, to the UIF themselves. BlackLion Group was basically a ghost. 

I was told, by the Department of Labour, that the BlackLion Group is responsible for my salary and I quote "if the work was done, it needs to be paid for". Torsten Lueddecke argues otherwise. By law, they are responsible, but unfortunately companies and people like this manage to dodge bullets for as long as they can.

The company also never followed any legal liquidation procedures and have still, to this day, kept their business name open (even though Roman Lutz and Torsten Lueddecke claim the company has no funds). Both Roman Lutz and Torsten Lueddecke still advertise themselves as owners of BlackLion Group on Social Media. Torsten Lueddecke thinks he is above the law. He claims to not be responsible at all. The worst was when he claimed that as a PTY Limited company they do not owe a cent because it's the company that owes me, not him... um... how else did your company get there?! YOU OBVIOUSLY. YOU ARE THE COMPANY. YOU ARE THE FACE. YOU ARE THE BRAND. YOU ARE THE OWNER. 

Here are just a few of the many Torsten Lueddecke comments: 


I repeat: I owe you NOTHING in my personally capacity. So how much money a beer costs, nor anything else I spend in my personal capacity will be of any interest to a judge. If you still don’t get, that it is a LIMITED Company (limited meaning: the LIABILITY is limited by the share capital, this is the ESSENCE of a limited company!) that owes you money and NOT me as a person … then I can not help it and may be a judge needs to explain that to you. 






Again, The Department of Labour and many other companies I have contacted all tell me the same thing: THE SOUTH AFRICAN LAW says: IF THE WORK WAS DONE IT NEEDS TO BE PAID FOR.




If you have a valid case against me, the place to take it is the court. I wonder what your reasons might be to choose to take it to “Social Media” instead. And I leave it up to your judgement whether this action is likely to increase or decrease the chances of a settlement ….?

I remind you that it is the company that owes you money and not me in my personal capacity. To kill the cow that owes you milk is plainly stupid. Your money would be lost indefinitely. In addition you will find yourself in front of the court. But as the culprit and not the plaintiff.


It’s over a year later and nothing has been paid back. I won't tell you how much it is... but just to give you an idea, take a little over a three month salary and burn it.. gone. How does that make you feel? Really crappy, heartbroken and frustrated. 

I will not stop fighting and if there is any advice I can give to anyone out there, stay strong and fight your battles.

#freedomofspeech #romanlutzandtorstenlueddeckemustfall #blackliongroupmustfall
#BlackLionGroup #RomanLutz #TorstenLueddecke




Claudia Jones

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