Company provides conflicting reasons for termination of employee after armed robbery

The Boost Mobile cell phone store at Valley Square shopping center, 724 W. Main Street was robbed at gunpoint Monday night. (Photo by Steve Southwell)

A woman was traumatized by an armed robbery the night of Jan. 15 at the Boost Mobile store where she worked. Now she is also out of a job, and she and her employer give conflicting accounts of why.

If she was fired, she was fired while suffering from PTSD. Carol Newman had visited a doctor Jan. 17 to get treatment after the incident, and was put on medication to help her sleep. She had texted her boss about the visit and that she couldn’t come back to work yet and would get him a doctor’s note.  

The Lewisville Texan Journal would not normally cover this story, but it has been made an issue of public interest by Newman’s social media posts.

The night of the robbery, Newman said the robber forced her into a back room at gunpoint and cleaned out a safe, taking several phones and a small amount of money from the store. He also took Newman’s purse.

When police arrived to take the report, Newman said she put her new supervisor, Jorge Bonilla, on speakerphone as she talked to the officer. She showed the store’s surveillance video to police who were later able to use that to identify and arrest the suspect. Newman said she left the police contact information in the store for Bonilla that night.

The next day, Newman posted on Facebook about the robbery, sharing a still photo from the surveillance video and asking the public to help police identify the suspect. The day after that, she posted that she had been fired from the store, and they had not given her a reason.

Shawn Khoja, one of the partners in PairUp Wireless, which owns the Boost Mobile store, made a statement that implies Newman had decided to leave.

“We at PairUp Wireless are extremely saddened about the incident that occurred on 1.15.2018 at our Lewisville store. We strive to provide a safe environment for both our employees and customers, and have taken several security measures to help in that effort.

“We have also been made aware of some statements Ms. Newman made about our team’s actions after the incident. We are dismayed at her account, as we have done our best to be supportive. After the incident, we encouraged Ms. Newman to take time off, which she did, and while on her second day off she expressed her desire to move on and requested we tender her last check. A request we complied with.

“Although we were disappointed to hear of her decision to move on, we understood and respected it. We are shocked to hear that her accounts of our exchanges are different. We have a strong track-record of supporting our employees, and are proud to state that our longest employee has been with us for over 3 years.

“We have the utmost respect for Ms. Newman, and appreciate the work she has done for our company. We wish her the best on her next endeavor.”

Newman denies Khoja’s implication that she quit her job. She called Khoja to confront him directly about her termination and ask the reason why she was fired.

Despite Khoja’s public statement that she had quit the job, in the recorded phone call, he told her three reasons for her termination. None of them had to do with the robbery itself, her regular job performance or her activities on social media afterward.

One of the reasons Khoja gave Newman for her termination was her supposed unwillingness to give her store keys to Bonilla the next day. Khoja told Newman he had given Bonilla the wrong apartment number to come pick the keys up. However, Newman sent Bonilla the correct address. Their text conversation indicates that Bonilla may have driven to the wrong building Jan. 16.

The second reason Khoja gave Newman for her termination was that she would not answer phone calls from Bonilla asking for the alarm code information for the store. Newman said she turned off her phone after Bonilla successfully picked up the store keys from her.

“He was a week into the job,” Newman said. “I would think they would have provided him access to all stores.”

The third reason seemed more serious — that Newman refused to provide her supervisor’s information to the police after the robbery. But Newman said he was on speakerphone with her and the police on the night of the robbery and that she had left the police department contact information for him at the store.

After 5 p.m., Jan. 16, Newman told Bonilla via text message Lewisville PD called her for a copy of the store video and asked Bonilla if he was able to get a tech to make a copy of it. He responded to her that they were working on it, and asked Newman on her day off to call the police back and have police call him at a number he provided.

Newman said she ignored Bonilla’s text message because he had the police department’s contact information. She said police had not asked her directly for Bonilla’s information.

Lewisville PD Capt. Michael Moore said he would have known about it if Newman weren’t cooperative. Moore said that the video was all that was really needed to solve the case and that detectives had quickly determined who the suspect was when they viewed it.

Newman said Bonilla had been the one who did not want police to take one of the phones in the store that the suspect had touched.

“It was a $20 piece of crap phone,” Newman said. Newman said the police officer laughed and took the phone for evidence.

Bonilla said that the issue was confidential and he could not discuss it.

On the phonecall, the two also discussed Khoja’s belief that Newman told him “I want my check,” and taking that to mean her final paycheck.  

Newman told him that she meant that to be money to pay for her doctor visit, and that she hadn’t received any paycheck.

Khoja clarified that they had paid her electronically via ACH, and that it could take a couple days for the payment to hit.

Khoja told Newman that the company would reimburse her up to $150 for the cost of her doctor bills. Newman verbally rejected that settlement. She told The Lewisville Texan Journal that she had paid $280 for the visit and medicine and that the loss of her purse and wallet was about $400.

Khoja’s follow-up email to The Lewisville Texan Journal after we pointed out Newman’s assertion that she was fired again implied that she had quit by asking for her final paycheck:

“… We processed her payment via ACH, which she should receive in the next couple of days, as she was signed up for Direct Deposit. I did speak to her directly and when asked what we could do to help, she stated she wanted her final check and we complied. We have not received an ask about covering her doctor bills until your email, however, as a goodwill gesture, we offered to pay a doctor’s bill up to $150, which she declined over the phone just now.”

Whether or not Newman was fired, she was shaken by the robbery and may not have returned.

“I probably would have never made it back there,” she said. “As much as I love selling phones, I probably would have never been able to bring myself to go back into that store.”