Skip to comments.Dishwasher gets cleaned
Posted on 01/31/2007 1:12:31 PM PST by primeval patriot
U.S. District Judge James Cohn has forced a Guatemalan dishwasher to surrender nearly all his life savings to the government because he didn't sign a declaration form before trying to board an airplane.
Pedro Zapeta of Stuart had $59,000 in his bag when Customs agents searched it and confiscated the money at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Sept. 18, 2005. Mr. Zapeta, a 39-year-old Mayan whose native language is Quiche, has said that he was unaware of the requirement to disclose amounts greater than $10,000. On Monday, Judge Cohn ruled that the $10,000 was all that Mr. Zapeta could keep. He must forfeit the rest - $49,000. Mr. Zapeta has no real option for appealing, and is likely to be deported soon.
"It is unconscionable for the government to take that money," said Robert Gershman, Mr. Zapeta's attorney. "They do it because they can. That's the only reason. It's just not right. He could have left with all $59,000 if he had signed the form."
In his six-page ruling, Judge Cohn said that the government had dropped earlier claims that the cash was drug money, and that prosecutors were accusing Mr. Zapeta of a civil currency violation, not a criminal offense. Mr. Gershman argued that Mr. Zapeta should pay a fine of no more than $5,000 for being negligent; he never had flown on a plane. "There is no rule of thumb in these cases," the lawyer said. "They shouldn't just rubber-stamp them with a decision like this."
Mr. Zapeta entered the country illegally 11 years ago and worked as a dishwasher for numerous Stuart restaurants, often holding two jobs at a time for little more than minimum wage. He intended to start a business with relatives upon returning to Guatemala. Mr. Gershman believes that the dishwasher's immigration and social status worked against him: "If Mr. Zapeta were a professional man, or more intellectual, or more mainstream, there's no question that he would not have been treated this way."
This is the guest worker President Bush has in mind when he proposes immigration reform. Pedro Zapeta didn't come to stay. He came to make investment money he can't make back home. Having done so, he was ready to deport himself. Judge Cohn had a chance to make sense out of this bureaucratic bungling. Instead, he displayed little logic and even less compassion.
I call BS
Damn, I'm fresh out of pity. Maybe the 49K will make up for any hospital visits he might have made.
The War On (Some) Drugs claims another victory.
Sorry, Mr Attorney. That's a load of crap. In fact, we're damn lucky the law was applied in this case simple BECAUSE he is an illegal.
The dishwasher story doesn't hold water.
Is that a dialect of French?
ETA: If he was here illegally, deport him.
Arbitrary confiscation is pure BS.
Same with asset forfeiture laws.
Yeah,,, the Judge cleaned his clock.
Real men don't speak Quiche.
did you actually read the article? He worked hard for years, saving up to open a restaurant. Because YOU DON'T BELIEVE it, means he should have it all taken away? Because he didn't fill out a form correctly, the government has the right to take away HIS money? You sure you want to stick with your opinion?
Don't care that he was an illegal. I don't like it when the Feds sieze money 'cause you have "too much."
At the very least, he should be allowed to wire it home or bank it.
The government just lets us carry around varying amounts, until they decide to take it back.
He should be fined for the currency violation (I don't agree with that law, but it's on the books) and for the immigration violation; however, I can't picture those fines totally $49,000. This judge is a thief with a black robe instead of a black mask.
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