McDonald's workers let go as new owner takes over

GLENDALE (WITI) -- Dozens of workers at a Glendale McDonald's restaurant say they were fired on the spot this week. This, after six individuals were federally charged with drug conspiracy and money laundering back in October -- one of them the owner of three North Shore McDonald's restaurants -- including the Glendale restaurant.

Ricardo Perez is one of those fired from McDonald's. He was told to close the doors to the Glendale McDonald's Monday evening and have employees clean for a new owner taking over on Tuesday.

Perez says he then got a call saying he was no longer needed.

"I love McDonald's. I love the brand. I've worked at McDonald's since I was 15. Me not being able to punch in at the store where I've worked on and off for the past six years doesn't make any sense to me," Perez said.

The three McDonald's restaurants workers say are seeing massive firings are in Glendale, Fox Point and Mequon. All three were in the news in October after the former owner of the three McDonald's restaurants, Edward Patterson of Whitefish Bay and five others were federally indicted, accused of using the McDonald's to fund drug trafficking and laundering money through the restaurants.

Through 15 search warrants, officials were able to confiscate several pounds of high-grade marijuana, 11 firearms and approximately $90,000 in U.S. currency.

The charges unsealed in October were the result of a long-term investigation by the DEA and several agencies in Wisconsin.

Officials say the defendants indicted were involved in a drug trafficking organization that obtained large quantities of marijuana from Northern California within the Milwaukee area. The defendants also used addresses in the Milwaukee area to receive marijuana shipments through U.S. mail — according to officials.

Officials say certain conspirators, including Patterson, are alleged to have used three Milwaukee-area McDonald’s restaurants owned by Patterson to fund their drug trafficking activities, to conceal their drug proceeds and to promote their drug trafficking activities.

FOX6 News found a man who identified himself as the new owner -- Robert Pyles inside the Glendale location on Tuesday.

Pyles released the following statement:

"My organization is an equal opportunity employer. As the new owner of these McDonald’s restaurants, I held meetings with existing employees to ensure they were adequately notified of the change in ownership. I also made them aware of my hiring process, which gave them an opportunity to apply for positions in my organization. As a result of the hiring process, several applicants were not hired. To respect the privacy of those individuals, it would not be appropriate to comment further."

Erika Pizarro says that doesn't sit well with her. She showed up at 3:45 a.m. at the Fox Point McDonald's to start her shift. She couldn't log in to the computer system, and was then told by phone she was released.

"I have four children at home -- rent, bills, everything and it's horrible," Pizarro said.

The McDonald's workers FOX6 News spoke with estimate more than half of the workers in those three McDonald's restaurants were let go without notice.