When David Vasquez told his wife last October he'd gotten a job on a big Sacramento city contract to install water meters, she cried.
These are tough times for working men and women such as Vasquez, who has spent his life in the trades, handling cement for more than 20 years.
The federal stimulus funded job was just what the Rio Linda family man needed to make it through these lean recession days and support his wife and five kids.
Three months in, however, it's David Vasquez who cries, suddenly unemployed and the victim of alleged fraud.it's David Vasquez who cries, suddenly unemployed and the victim of alleged fraud.
Vasquez was an employee at Advantage Demolition & Engineering, a company the city of Sacramento has fired – saying the owner, Peter Michael Scott, used fraudulent bond documents to win the $3.5 million in city contracts. Vasquez was an employee at Advantage Demolition & Engineering, a company the city of Sacramento has fired – saying the owner, Peter Michael Scott, used fraudulent bond documents to win the $3.5 million in city contracts.
"The construction trades are real tough right now. This was a chance for us all to work," said Daniel Vasquez, David's brother, who also worked as a cement mason for Advantage Demolition.
While the city missed signs that Scott had a history of financial troubles, including a past bankruptcy and outstanding tax liens, the incident doesn't appear to have hurt Sacramento. The city paid only $65,000 to the contractor before issuing a stop notice, and hundreds of meters were installed.
The real victims appear to be the workers, tradesmen who thought the federal stimulus was going to mean a steady paycheck in these unsteady days of unemployment and economic malaise. Instead they find themselves out three weeks of pay, unable to collect unemployment because their boss allegedly never paid payroll taxes, and back on the job hunt, their spirits crushed.
"We're the little guys in this. Are we going to be forgotten?" Dan Vasquez asked, sitting in his brother's kitchen and wiping a tear from his cheek.
Dan, who has three kids, said he's two months behind on his mortgage – about $3,200 total – and fears he could lose his home. His son just went out for soccer and was the only kid without cleats.
His brother, David, has five kids, including three little ones living at home. For only the second time in five years, David said he's going to be late with the rent check.
Ramon Mercado Iniquez, another Advantage Demolition worker, fanned a stack of overdue bills sitting at the Vasquez kitchen table.
"I have a bunch of bills I need to pay. How am I going to pay?" Iniquez said. "I'm going to lose my house."
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.