Kim Koutek and Britney Sandoval aren't sugar-coating anything when it comes to Thom Pham.
"Don't ever work for him, ever," urged Koutek.
Both Koutek and Sandoval worked for Pham at his Wondrous Azian Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis before it abruptly closed this week. Koutek bartended at Wondrous Kitchen for six months, Sandoval was a host for three months and both had paychecks bounce repeatedly.
"I remember one time he paid me in $5 bundles," says Sandoval. "It was so ridiculous and that was the only money they had for the restaurant."
"I left because I have a family to take care of," said Koutek, "and this was not supporting me at all. It was continued lies manipulation."
Neither Koutek of Sandoval were surprised when FOX 9 reported Pham is facing felony charges out of Mille Lacs County. Pham was charged by summons for allegedly issuing dishonored checks. A-Z Restaurant Equipment, of Princeton, is listed as the victim in the criminal complaint out of Mille Lacs County.
The owner claims Pham wrote him more than $30,000 worth of bad checks back in March for kitchen equipment delivered to Azia Market. The owner said he's been trying for months to get the money back.
A felony arrest warrant was issued for Pham after he didn't show up for his first court appearance on Sept. 11.
By phone, Pham claimed he didn't know anything about the charges or the warrant. After FOX 9 aired the story, Pham agreed to that phone interview.
Pham said within the past couple of months, he sold his new business venture, Azia Market, to Mike Stebnitz. Pham calls Stebnitz a longtime friend and former business partner. The two used to own Azia at 26th Street and Nicollet Avenue. After closing, they are returning to open Azia Market.
"It's his business, but my concept, my vision, my menu. I'm going to work with him on that," says Pham.
Pham says he is working to make sure everyone who has done work for him gets paid and to clear up the charges in Mille Lacs County.
"Sometimes, they were not able to get paid the same day and trust me, it broke my heart when that happened," Pham said. "At the end of the day, everyone got paid -- except myself, of course."
Pham said he posted bail Wednesday night once he learned there was a warrant for his arrest.