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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk ZeoBandit's Avatar
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    Default Mistake costs dishwasher $59,000

    Mistake costs dishwasher $59,000

    MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- For 11 years, Pedro Zapeta, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, lived his version of the American dream in Stuart, Florida: washing dishes and living frugally to bring money back to his home country.
    Zapeta

    Two years ago, Zapeta was ready to return to Guatemala, so he carried a duffel bag filled with $59,000 -- all the cash he had scrimped and saved over the years -- to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

    But when Zapeta tried to go through airport security, an officer spotted the money in the bag and called U.S. customs officials.

    "They asked me how much money I had," Zapeta recalled, speaking to CNN in Spanish.

    He told the customs officials $59,000. At that point, U.S. customs seized his money, setting off a two-year struggle for Zapeta to get it back.

    Zapeta, who speaks no English, said he didn't know he was running afoul of U.S. law by failing to declare he was carrying more than $10,000 with him. Anyone entering or leaving the country with more than $10,000 has to fill out a one-page form declaring the money to U.S. customs.

    Officials initially accused Zapeta of being a courier for the drug trade, but they dropped the allegation once he produced pay stubs from restaurants where he had worked. Zapeta earned $5.50 an hour at most of the places where he washed dishes. When he learned to do more, he got a 25-cent raise.

    After customs officials seized the money, they turned Zapeta over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS released him but began deportation proceedings. For two years, Zapeta has had two attorneys working pro bono: one on his immigration case, the other trying to get his money back.

    "They are treating me like a criminal when all I am is a working man," he said.

    Zapeta's story became public last year on CNN and in The Palm Beach Post newspaper, prompting well-wishers to give him nearly $10,000 -- money that now sits in a trust.

    Robert Gershman, one of Zapeta's attorneys, said federal prosecutors later offered his client a deal: He could take $10,000 of the original cash seized, plus $9,000 in donations as long as he didn't talk publicly and left the country immediately.

    Zapeta said, "No." He wanted all his money. He'd earned it, he said.

    Now, according to Gershman, the Internal Revenue Service wants access to the donated cash to cover taxes on the donations and on the money Zapeta made as a dishwasher. Zapeta admits he never paid taxes.

    CNN contacted the U.S. Attorneys office in Miami, U.S. Customs and the IRS about Zapeta's case. They all declined to comment.

    Marisol Zequeira, an immigration lawyer, said illegal immigrants such as Zapeta have few options when dealing with the U.S. government.

    "When you are poor, uneducated and illegal, your avenues are cut," he said.

    On Wednesday, Zapeta went to immigration court and got more bad news. The judge gave the dishwasher until the end of January to leave the country on his own. He's unlikely to see a penny of his money.

    "I am desperate," Zapeta said. "I no longer feel good about this country."

    Zapeta said his goal in coming to the United States was to make enough money to buy land in his mountain village and build a home for his mother and sisters. He sent no money back to Guatemala over the years, he said, and planned to bring it all home at once.

    At Wednesday's hearing, Zapeta was given official status in the United States -- voluntary departure -- and a signed order from a judge. For the first time, he can work legally in the U.S.

    By the end of January, Zapeta may be able to earn enough money to pay for a one-way ticket home so the U.S. government, which seized his $59,000, doesn't have to do so.
    "What we are dealing with here, is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Jackie Gleason, Smokey and the Bandit

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  2. #2
    Hot sauce on everything Red's Avatar
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    12.06.17 @ 06:36 AM
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    Nobody's fault but Pedro's.

  3. #3
    Eruption
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    "They are treating me like a criminal when all I am is a working man," he said.
    While I admire your hard work, you are a fucking criminal (as much as I want immigration reform, that's a fact)! And we will see even more BS...
    Zapeta admits he never paid taxes.
    I think that speaks for itself.
    "I no longer feel good about this country."
    Good! Then get the hell out of here! I have no problem taxing your money, giving the rest to you, and keeping your ass out for good. There are thousands upon thousands of good, hard-working people who love my country who could take your place (if our government ever gets their heads out of their asses and can get these people in legally).

    End rant.

    EDIT: The federal government has once again been proven to be a bunch of douchebags. Give the guy his money (after taxes) and send him on his way. What a waste of taxpayer money with all of this crap!
    Last edited by JCJanko; 09.28.07 at 06:17 AM.
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  4. #4
    Hang 'Em High jetguy5150's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 11:56 AM
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCJanko View Post
    There are thousands upon thousands of good, hard-working people who love my country who could take your place...

    EDIT: The federal government has once again been proven to be a bunch of douchebags. Give the guy his money (after taxes) and send him on his way. What a waste of taxpayer money with all of this crap!
    But will they wash dishes for 11 years at $5.50 to $5.75 an hour???

    And good point about the taxpayer money. The government has probably spent way more than $59000 on this so far.
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  5. #5
    Good Enough darthadv's Avatar
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    i think the idea is that he got the money under false pretenses, which is why they feel he's not even entitled to the full amount "post-taxes"...

    i could've been sympathetic to the guy, but his whole attitude is crap, like this country owed him something after he came over illegally... had he paid taxes into the system, i guarantee you that the govt would've been a little more lenient towards him because it would've shown an effort of trying to assimilate into the system... SORRY, CAN'T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT, TOO...

    i also hate the attitude (and i've known my share of people over the years) of "i'm saving money to take it back home"...

    and btw, just about everybody knows about that $10K declaration rule... usually people will travel with an amount just short of that ($500-$1K less) so that they legally don't have to declare it... i suspect he did know about it and just hoped to not get caught, because in the circle of friends that he must've kept, someone must've had to travel with some large amount of cash in a similar situation... i can almost guarantee he likely shared an apt with another guy in the same boat...
    Runaround... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around... around...

  6. #6
    Good Enough darthadv's Avatar
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    01.05.12 @ 09:51 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by jetguy5150 View Post
    But will they wash dishes for 11 years at $5.50 to $5.75 an hour???

    And good point about the taxpayer money. The government has probably spent way more than $59000 on this so far.
    whether someone is willing to wash dishes for that amount of money is not the point, but i guarantee you that you will find someone if they don't have any other prospects... not everyone is an office person or skilled technician...

    i don't know what the govt would've booked for having "spent" on this case, but you know that they would try to milk it anyway to be able to charge it back to this sum and keep whatever they could...

    as someone else, the only person at fault here is the ILLEGAL immigrant...
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  7. #7
    Atomic Punk chefcraig's Avatar
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    Having worked with folk in this situation over the years, let me state a few things. Many of the immigrants to this country, be they legal or not, come from countries (such as Haiti) where brutality from their own government, via the police or armed forces, is so extreme that indeed they fear any sort of dealings with "outsiders". These folk tend to live in tight knit clans, rarely associate outside of it. Their own native language is the primary voice of communication.

    I find it truly galling when so called "enlightened" Americans that know absolutely nothing of the struggles and hardships many of these folk have endured can sit back and callously state: "Get out of the country", or "Go back where you came from". (Morons. As if your own family merely woke up one day here on this continent. Unless you are of Indian descent, this seems somewhat unlikely.)

    It is not that simple an issue. For some, it can mean persecution or death. Why on Earth does one suppose these folk struggle along making minimum wage, causing as little waves as possible? Let's not forget that his employer should have had some responsibility in the collection of this guy's W2 each year, or perhaps he was being paid illegally? Or even better, exploited for his earnings?

    I'm not justifying what the guy did. I'm merely pointing out the potential reasons for his actions, and that ultimately, in order to work in this country for so many years, someone else had to know of the situation.
    "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
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  8. #8
    Good Enough darthadv's Avatar
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    01.05.12 @ 09:51 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefcraig View Post
    Having worked with folk in this situation over the years, let me state a few things. Many of the immigrants to this country, be they legal or not, come from countries (such as Haiti) where brutality from their own government, via the police or armed forces, is so extreme that indeed they fear any sort of dealings with "outsiders". These folk tend to live in tight knit clans, rarely associate outside of it. Their own native language is the primary voice of communication.

    I find it truly galling when so called "enlightened" Americans that know absolutely nothing of the struggles and hardships many of these folk have endured can sit back and callously state: "Get out of the country", or "Go back where you came from". (Morons. As if your own family merely woke up one day here on this continent. Unless you are of Indian descent, this seems somewhat unlikely.)

    It is not that simple an issue. For some, it can mean persecution or death. Why on Earth does one suppose these folk struggle along making minimum wage, causing as little waves as possible? Let's not forget that his employer should have had some responsibility in the collection of this guy's W2 each year, or perhaps he was being paid illegally? Or even better, exploited for his earnings?

    I'm not justifying what the guy did. I'm merely pointing out the potential reasons for his actions, and that ultimately, in order to work in this country for so many years, someone else had to know of the situation.
    i hear what you're saying chef, but we're not talking about a refugee from some battered country... you may argue that mexico has its own level of corruption that someone may want to flee from, but i don't know enough about the country to make statements about it, and this guy was planning on returning there with a big loot of cash which would have him living like a king (i've been through some poor parts of mexico and have witnessed its poverty)... that, to me, doesn't sound like a guy who is scared to return there...

    but being the son of two immigrants, i was initially drawn to side with the guy until i read through all the details... if the guy couldn't legally find a way to get sponsored and come into the country, at least when he snuck in here illegally, he could've made some effort to somehow legitimize it, but he CHOSE not to... he knew he was working the system, it's not like he's claiming ignorance on that... he wanted to "stay quiet" and "not cause any waves", but not to escape persecution, but to keep from getting caught as an illegal... the u.s. was great to him until he got caught with money he hadn't paid taxes on, and that's a big no-no... this guy was not oppressed - by his own admission, he came here to work hard for a while and eventually go back home with what he made... you can't bear the fruits of what the u.s. offers without being a participant in the system... if he wanted to go back all along, that's fine, but you can't just get a free ride - it's not fair to the rest of us...

    his employers should absolutely be held responsible, and i'm sure the govt is looking into them and will be handing them hefty fines and investigating them big time... i have family that run restaurant businesses in nyc, and you know what? they demand that anyone who wants to work for them have their proper working papers, because they just don't want the potential headache and have too many other investments to want to get in the bad graces of the i.r.s. ... are these people being exploited by the less scrupulous? the illegals are, yes... but, if, for argument's sake, there were no illegals, then what a dishwasher would get paid would be determined by simple supply & demand, and it's not like that salary is going to shoot up to the level of some union job or office job...

    sorry for the rant, but employers who want to take a shortcut and continue to use illegals perpetuate the problem... and people like pedro, who know very well from family and/or friends that this option is available, will continue to have the attitude that's it's ok to continue to try and milk the system... he didn't just come up with the idea on his own...

    i do feel bad for legit refugees who can't seem to escape their situations, but this just isn't such an example... and i don't argue that this doesn't suck for this guy, but he brought it on himself...
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  9. #9
    Atomic Punk stilleddiesangel's Avatar
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    Always interested in this stuff because when I was there I worked on a J1 visa... classed as a cultural exchange and was given the visa for 13 months. Believe me, I would have love to have stayed and made the US my home but we were warned before we went that Au Pair In America would give our names and passport details to Immigration and if we stayed and worked, we would most likely be caught and deported with a ban on re-entering and our employer would be prosecuted and heavily fined. I tried to find a way to stay legally but it was just impossible.

    So yeah, I get pissed when I see others getting away with it. I would have been happy to pay taxes and work my butt off, make a contribution to society there but I could understand the rules and came home when my visa ran out. This guy didnt even care.
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  10. #10
    Atomic Punk smithjc's Avatar
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    08.04.17 @ 11:33 PM
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    I felt sorry for the guy til I read his statements and that he didn't pay taxes on any of his earnings.

    Wonder what the govt. will do with the cash?? Do I need to give them my name and addy?
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  11. #11
    Eruption
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    10.03.13 @ 10:13 AM
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    Quote Originally Posted by chefcraig View Post
    Having worked with folk in this situation over the years, let me state a few things. Many of the immigrants to this country, be they legal or not, come from countries (such as Haiti) where brutality from their own government, via the police or armed forces, is so extreme that indeed they fear any sort of dealings with "outsiders". These folk tend to live in tight knit clans, rarely associate outside of it. Their own native language is the primary voice of communication.

    I find it truly galling when so called "enlightened" Americans that know absolutely nothing of the struggles and hardships many of these folk have endured can sit back and callously state: "Get out of the country", or "Go back where you came from". (Morons. As if your own family merely woke up one day here on this continent. Unless you are of Indian descent, this seems somewhat unlikely.)

    It is not that simple an issue. For some, it can mean persecution or death. Why on Earth does one suppose these folk struggle along making minimum wage, causing as little waves as possible? Let's not forget that his employer should have had some responsibility in the collection of this guy's W2 each year, or perhaps he was being paid illegally? Or even better, exploited for his earnings?

    I'm not justifying what the guy did. I'm merely pointing out the potential reasons for his actions, and that ultimately, in order to work in this country for so many years, someone else had to know of the situation.
    I only work as a Spanish speaking recovery specialist. I have NO idea what these people go through, nor do I have any friends who are from Mexico. Nor have I met numerous immigrants, legal and otherwise, nor understand their plight.

    You clearly quoted my post, so back it up. You made some good points, but unfortunately you decided to throw out insults ("morons" and enlightened in quotes). Strangely enough, I am strongly for Indians' rights and immigration reform, but...

    You have chosen a path of discussion that eliminates intellect and relies on ad hom attacks on people you know NOTHING about (me specifically).

    Instead of calling people names, try explaining your position, and then I can destroy it thoroughly after proving you are no more of an authority than myself. Thanks!
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  12. #12
    Super Duper Frontman track 5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCJanko View Post
    I only work as a Spanish speaking recovery specialist. I have NO idea what these people go through, nor do I have any friends who are from Mexico. Nor have I met numerous immigrants, legal and otherwise, nor understand their plight.

    You clearly quoted my post, so back it up. You made some good points, but unfortunately you decided to throw out insults ("morons" and enlightened in quotes). Strangely enough, I am strongly for Indians' rights and immigration reform, but...

    You have chosen a path of discussion that eliminates intellect and relies on ad hom attacks on people you know NOTHING about (me specifically).

    Instead of calling people names, try explaining your position, and then I can destroy it thoroughly after proving you are no more of an authority than myself. Thanks!
    Ouch! How's that feeling right about now Chef? LOL. Out.
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