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.
Hey, I had a low paying job for 2 years and saved some $15K. It can be done.
I've had immigrants work for me at a number of places and those from certain countries, especially Vietnam, are insanely frugal. They understand what it is to be poor. Not "American Poor", but poor.
After 11 years at minimum wage, probably a lot under-the-table, I can believe it.
Illegal is illegal. He is here illegally. If he can prove the money is his, he can take it with him. I wonder what other laws he has ignored. Like paying income tax, SS tax, medicaid, unemployment insurance, etc.
Apparently Mr Zapeta either could not read or could not understand the signs posted all over boarding areas for international flights stating that amounts over $10,000 must be declared or the feds will take your money and possibly throw your hiney in jail.
"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."
No, if Mr Zapeta had learned to read and understand English in his 11 years here illegally he wouldn't have this problem.
I personally have never been in an international boarding area where the requirement for financial declaration is not clearly and conspicuously noted.
LOL Exactly what came to my mind.
Now I'm hungry.
Same here. Tho, I do wonder how much taxes he paid on the money illegally earned during the 11 years.
They should have just made the 59K subject to back Federal,State,local taxes (if not paid), and back social security payments (which were not made because he was illegal). He should have paid a fine for non declaration and then deported.
Some reporter somewhere can't spell . . . or else the speel chicker got loose on this one.
"Though estimates vary, the official Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala (ALMG) finds 21 distinct Mayan languages (with others in Mexico and Belize). Mam, K'aqchikel, and Q'eqchí are spoken by, respectively, 700,000, 450,000 and 370,000 people; K'iché is spoken by more than a million. The firth largest, Q'anjob'al is spoken by just over 100,000 and other languages each by considerably less than 100,000." source
Well, we know one thing for sure, he didn't pay any Social Security taxes.
The criminal fascist syndicate occupying Washington is simply creating more illegal precedent to steal your money if you don't have a note from mommy government to be carrying around cash in excess of 50 bucks.
That's my take. (off subject abit, but young dynachrome worked 9 months as a dishwasher and cook for minimum wage. Not much left over)
I agree with you that it is indeed possible. I teach ESL to illegals. They live together in large groups and conscientiously save money. They work as hard as anyone I've ever seen. Actually, this man is lucky that someone hadn't stolen it before then.
I remember a precedent where a legal immigrant borrowed lots of money from people in his home country to set up a business here (convenience store IIRC). He did well, and was about to fly back with the cash to pay everyone back when he was nailed under this law. I can't remember the amount, but they took tens of thousands of dollars.
The seizure was overturned on the grounds of "cruel and unusual punishment," in that losing tens of thousands of dollars because you didn't know you had to do some paperwork was out of proportion with the offense.
Not that I'd know either one if you hit me over the head with a dictionary. Even my Spanish is pretty rudimentary (and thoroughly contaminated by Latin.)
Paid cash- No payroll records. Worked as many hours as he could stand up, and employer didn't care.
Lived with 25 others in 1200 sq ft of "house".
He was here illegally....period.
Employer needs to be punished, also, IMO.
Sorry, dishwashing guy.
These folks have minimal living expenses. They live very frugally and live together in large groups. Even many of those with families leave children behind to come here and work. Those people tend to send their money back to their families.
No idea about this guy in particular, but large amounts of cash are common for new immigrants -- no bank accounts.
It doesn't matter.
Notwithstanding how he came up with the money, the law is the law. He came here illegally; ergo that money was illegally obtained.
The guy broke the law by unauthorized entry into the country. Next, his employers broke the law by hiring an illegal for 11 years.
Further, we really ought to be grateful the statute is actually being enforced, rather than just turning a blind eye to all immigration.
If he didn't know about it, or couldn't read the form, that's his own fault. The government is NOT under any obligation to make its forms understandable in every single language.
Oh, and if he was here 11 years, he couldn't find a free course to learn at least some basic English? Surely there had to have been some course that teaches English as a second language. Since the guy's from Guatemala (and even though he speaks Quiche), I would presume this dude could understand Spanish, and thus take the ESL course.
I have no sympathy for the guy. Not one iota.
I feel much safer now that the govt. stole this guy's money.
After 11 years at minimum wage, probably a lot under-the-table, I can believe it.
It's possible. Say he took home $250 a week over eleven years.
That's $143,000. If he was able to live on about $500 a month he could have saved $60K.
"Lived with 25 others..."
Happens here in Denver all the time. But, we are a sanctuarty city after all, thanks to the socialist scum who run the city.
So if you're here illegally, all the money you ever made is not yours...it's the governments? The day they go after the employer is the day I'll agree with you. But give this guy back the money he worked for.
Fair enough, he worked. He worked illegaly. Did he pay any taxes for all the services he received during those 11 years ? Did he break the law ? Yes. On many occasions. I'm sorry. Not that much sympathy. I toiled away getting an education and working crazy hours to make it, and to contribute to this society. He broke the law to take the money out and contribute to another country.
I tend to agree with that, but I do think that ignorance of the law ought to carry a hefty fine. Even ignorance of the language. I truly admire the work ethic of these immigrants, but they live in their own shadow world which makes it dangerous for them and everyone else here.
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?
If it's illegal to carry money it should say so on each bill.
sanctuary, too. Spell check broken again, I see.