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.
He broke the law getting here, and he knew it. He tried to break the law getting home, and he got caught.
Now he'll get to spend his money on a lawyer. LOL! How ironic for these break-your-heart lawbreakers, to spend their money on the law.
I'm very curious as to whether this guy paid taxes on this wad. Who hired him? The lawyer knows he'll have to prove ownership of the cash, which means we'll get to know who the crooked empoyers were.
So many rich people love these semi-slave servants and start needing to justify their own lawbreaking by sweetly sympathizing with their humble and hardworking Dilceys and Porks. I know rich ladies at a resort development who even think they're some kind of Great White Mother (Oh, Miss Scarlett!) when they exploit black market maids and yard help.
I have an friend who was born & raised in the US, is over 70 years old who went to the Bahamas and got lucky in a Casino to the tune of about $25 k. He flew back to the US with 250 $100 bills in a money belt around his waste and luckily did not get caught by Customs. When I told him about the $10k limit he was shocked. He had no idea what the law was.
The guy is no dummy and he is definitely not poor. He owned his own construction business all of his life and has tons of rental properties in several states, but he was never an "international traveler" and never had any reason to be aware of such a law.
It's too bad that that line is so horribly abused. It was originally meant to refer to not knowing that there were actually laws against an immoral act undertaken. It was *not* meant to imply that everyone needs to be an omniscient lawyer.
Well, he was deporting himself. And paid for the plane ticket.
No. I began to teach before I realized that they were illegal. I teach for an organization that gets state money and I assumed that they would check all this out. When I figured out the situation, I still believed that illegal or not, they need to know the language. I share the streets with them and it is to my advantage and my community's that they can read the road signs.
"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."
If Mr. Z were a "professional man", he'd have had the proper documentation allowing him to live and work here. H1-B visas as much as I detest them at least give the person a legal right to work.
"What if he was legal and paid his taxes?"
Straw man. He was not legal and we have no idea whether he paid taxes. Maybe we can check with whomever's identity he stole?
This is who lazy Americans are supposed to emulate in the new global economy.
Never mind that 59K will go ten times farther in the third world than over here.
I will put up a grand right this minute that there are many laws on the books you haven't a clue that exist.
Ill gotten gains are Ill gotten gains and they should be snatched from the grasp of every proven criminal. Every penny was gained by illegal means. That being working here illegally. Anything beyond that fact right there is spin and is avoiding the basic truthful premise that exists.
One question, how exactly does one get on a flight as an Illegal Alien? Identity theft or what? Am I missing something there?
But, he could read the customs form they gave him on the plane, and, it is *CLEARLY* stated on it you must declare cash or securities carried on your person in excess of 10K. It's not like you learn this in lawschool. It's says so on the damn form.
How about online wagering? ;)
"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?"
THANKYOU. YES, I thought there was a ban on cruel or unusual punishment. Taking away his money, is "unusual," it's not a regularly enforced penalty.
"I realized that they were illegal"
When you realized they are illegal for sure, you should be turning them in to ICE. Otherwise you aid and abet their crimes. Illegal border crossing, identity theft, theft of gov't services, etc.
Member of the NEA are you?
It doesn't mean I'm allowed to break them, however.
If people were allowed to plead ignorance, then every criminal would and it would be the state's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they really were aware of the law.
Considering how convoluted our legal system has become, I would submit that we're all ignorant of many laws. It's the nature of government to seize freedoms, and they're doing just that by creating statutes that are impossible for any person to actually understand.
I was in an international boarding area in the U.S. on Monday. If you had sight and were not blind one could not miss the signs posted requiring the declaration.
The signs are very, very clear, without a proper declaration of funds over $10,000 leaving the country the government clearly states they can take every last drop of cash you are taking and possibly take further action against the offender.