No one acted alone

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They didn’t drop out of the sky and whoosh right back.

If authorities are right, and local construction company owner Hugo Diaz was using illegal-alien indentured servant labor to undercut local contractors, he couldn’t have done it without help in the community.

There had to have been local businesses, contractors and builders who turned a blind eye and let it all happen. And participated in it.

We’ve been told by two different sources, for instance, that the million-dollar mansion Diaz had built on a golf course has no mortgage – that it was paid for with cash. We’re also told there were numerous other transactions in the tens of thousands of dollars made with cash or checks. Financial institutions and others are required to notify authorities about such things.

Moreover, how were undocumented aliens able to navigate the building and contracting and banking industries with ease, for years? And nobody wondered a thing?

The truth is, there were likely businesses and business people who were only too happy to wear blindfolds if it meant saving or making a buck.

“Absolutely there were builders complicit,” said local builder Joey Brush, adding that someone would’ve had to obtain building permits for Diaz since he didn’t have a state license to do so.

Brush said he even had a banker try to convince him to do business with Diaz to lower his costs and become more competitive.

Another Augustan familiar with the building community said of Diaz, “He has been undercutting everyone in the market by 30 percent or more.”

Brush, a former state legislator, said it was well known in the building community what was going on, and that lenders and others had to know as well.

“I’d be shocked if they didn’t know this guy was illegal,” Brush said.

Whether or not they did, such practices put downward pressure on home values even as the national economy has them in a funk.

And if there were large financial transactions that went unreported, there’s legal trouble there, too.

It won’t be enough for Hugo Diaz and his compatriots to have their day in court. Others may need it, too.

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Riverman1
81356
Points
Riverman1 11/10/11 - 06:07 am
0
0
The workers were hardly

The workers were hardly "indentured servant labor."

They went to great lengths to break ONTO the plantation. They were happily working for their wages is the truth.

But you are right, EVERYONE was allowing this to go on. The people who bought their houses that were built cheaper, the builders, the stores, the banks and even the federal government which has authority over immigration violations.

I guarantee you illegals are working all over Augusta today. Nothing has stopped. It's a powerful economic force of the same product cheaper. That wins everytime.

What has to be done is give workers permits easily and controlling where they work to prevent people like Diaz from exploiting their willingness to work. When you make something illegal, you can't control and tax it.

seabeau
33
Points
seabeau 11/10/11 - 07:57 am
0
0
This type of activity takes

This type of activity takes jobs away from our native born fellow citizens and puts our neighbors in the unemployment line!! Get aliens out of the building trades!!

agustinian
678
Points
agustinian 11/10/11 - 08:10 am
0
0
I'm SHOCKED! SHOCKED! That

I'm SHOCKED! SHOCKED! That there is illegal gambling in the casino! How 'bout a we all put our money where our mouths are. The State should develop a voluntary program to certify employers as "Certified Legal Employers" similar to the certification that food producers get for "Organic Food" or the Energy Star system for appliances. Consumers and home buyers could then seek out only those employers/contractors who carry the "state's good seal of Legal Employers". Most of us have no idea whether the workers on a contracted job have been vetted or not -- and not every Spanish speaking worker is here illegally. Governor Deal, how 'bout it?

jbartley
526
Points
jbartley 11/10/11 - 08:18 am
0
0
I have been building HOMES

I have been building HOMES for 27 years in Columbia county and I still use a lot of the same workers I started with years ago. The public needs to demand proof of workers being legal when they buy a home, but they want! My customers buy from me for the QUALITY not the price. Again illegal working on construction jobs or mowing yards can be controlled by the consumer.

jbartley
526
Points
jbartley 11/10/11 - 09:07 am
0
0
Just because workers look or

Just because workers look or speak Spanish does not mean they are not a US citizen or here legally. Most consumers wants to complain about the problem but they do not want to help if it cost them more money!

onlysane1left
216
Points
onlysane1left 11/10/11 - 08:43 am
0
0
We operate in a capitalistic

We operate in a capitalistic system, avoiding greed is key to keeping things legit. Whenever you discover something wrong, the key reason why it went wrong is greed. This is just another classic example.

Brad Owens
4178
Points
Brad Owens 11/10/11 - 09:27 am
0
0
agustinian, I love the

agustinian,

I love the Casablanca quote. Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) was my second favorite member of the cast. I use that all the time, glad to see someone else loves that movie too.

Brad

AnnaBass
-2
Points
AnnaBass 11/10/11 - 09:38 am
0
0
The same thing that drives

The same thing that drives these people out of their country and into ours is the same thing that keeps them from going through the proper channels once they get here to become legal - FEAR.

They come from countries with corrupt government, they're tired of being afraid for their lives and their children's lives because of the relentless and cruel drug and crime rings that rule the streets of their homelands. No wall, fence, or gun will keep people from trying to persevere.

Here they are met with shady expensive lawyers, lengthy and complicated legal processes, and an unwillingness to help.

Have any of you commenting ever tried to help someone become legal in this country? Talking to the SS department on someone's behalf is quite scary. Illegals can obtain an ITIN from the IRS so that they can actually pay taxes - however, most fear that the IRS would report to the INS so they do not follow through. Again - decisions that are all driven by FEAR.

The government/IRS WILL eagerly take the money from an illegal worker in a heartbeat. As we all are painfully aware, we surely do NEED their money.

The answer truly lies in helping to expedite the legal process for these folks by a people that understand what it really takes to cause someone to take such drastic measures to ensure their rights to live their lives without fear.

To them, I'm sure we are merely regarded as the lesser of two evils.

augusta now
7
Points
augusta now 11/10/11 - 09:57 am
0
0
There are systems in place to

There are systems in place to assure we are not dealing with an illegal contractor. To get a contract with the federal government or the City of Augusta, one has to go through the e-verify system. All subcontractors have to be verified too. More red tape, yes, but our economy will no longer hold up to paying for benefits that are not being filled with proper withdrawals from paychecks. If you want the benefits, you have to pay for them! We have such a great country! Let's not loose it! Let's quit overburdening those of us who are legal and paying our share over and over again.

There are several hispanic families working here locally that many of us are quite fond of and love their work ethic. They have awesome family values, but really know how to work the government system. Most of the individuals in the families are legal. Do we want their breadwinners sent back to Mexico into dire poverty? Do we want to support their legalized families if this happens? No, but they need to get legalized. Verification is the first step and then let us sponsor those who want to stay and help them get them American Citizen credentials. They have nothing to return to in Mexico to further their education and family values.

david jennings
571
Points
david jennings 11/10/11 - 10:28 am
0
0
I have always been impressed

I have always been impressed with the work ethic of Asian immigrants. They come here and open businesses and work seven days a week tirelessly and I like them and respect them. I don't understand why Hispanics have such a hard time immigrating legally. The Federal Government has failed the U.S. citizens in letting this situation get to this point. Then when the States try to innitiate some control they are sued by the Feds.
Diaz is obviuosly a pretty smart buusinessman to get as far as he did illegally, I wonder if he could reach the same level of success if he had to do it legal, I would think so. It might be harder and take longer, maybe that was not an option in his mind.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 11:59 am
0
0
Joey Brush and others should

Joey Brush and others should have learned by now, it's very difficult to sling mud without getting some of it on you. Brush speaks like a man who would like nothing better than to eliminate his own competition. It was reported on Channel 26 that Diaz pulled CC building permits in his own name. It would also be important to note that Diaz did not need a permit to act as a subcontractor on another general's job.

Another important fact for our community and illustrious former state legislator/builder/realtor to remember: There is no current law requiring employers or contactors to require proof of citizenship. That law is on hold until January 2012, if it goes into effect.

As to what a general pays according to releasing job bids, as long as he is not purchasing stolen goods, he is free to enjoy the market place. Anything else is illegal price fixing and a violation of federal law. However, I never heard of Diaz charging less, just performing more efficiently. But, if he did charge less, that is the free market working like it is designed to.

The wages Diaz paid his employees is another matter, but one that was his own responsibility and was not one in which any general had knowledge of, input on, control of or legal responsibility for.

Please, let the investigations continue and expand. I am all for it.

Cynical old woman
1090
Points
Cynical old woman 11/10/11 - 03:17 pm
0
0
Yes, Willow, I agree. Diaz

Yes, Willow, I agree. Diaz was a one horse show until about 2-3years ago in our area. That's when we were swamped by an out of town builder who had rock bottom pricing. His workers appeared to be Hispanic for the most part. Several local Builders met with officials, (Lee Anderson, Bill Jackson, Richard Harmon to name a few) to express their concern over what was believed to be illegal workers. Bottom line was the officials said "too bad we don't have the manpower or desire to do anything about it.". Others wrote newspaper editorials (Barry Paschal) calling the local builders whiners and said they were merely upset over competition. WRONG,

At this point, the locals had tough decisions to make....fold, or find MUCH lower pricing from their subs. Mr. Diaz had an FEI number, received 1099's that were not returned by the gov't, workman's comp, etc. They (the local builders that used Mr. Diaz's services) were within the letter of the law.

The failure of local officials to investigate local builders' concerns 2 years ago is what directly led to rapid expansion of the Diaz business.

And, today, that same out of town builder has moved to Aiken county and beyond. Ride through one of the out of towners' neighborhoods today and see what percentage of the workers appear to be Hispanic. Try 90%.

Cynical old woman
1090
Points
Cynical old woman 11/10/11 - 04:05 pm
0
0
And, Mr. Brush, the lots of

And, Mr. Brush, the lots of your that you've recently sold to an out of town builder...have you ridden through those job sites? If you wish to communicate with the workers make sure you press 2 for Espanola.

Should you be held liable or responsible if they're using illegal workers! No more than builders who believed Mr. Diaz was legal despite the fact they may have wondered about his workers.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 04:49 pm
0
0
cynical, thanks for the

cynical, thanks for the reminder regarding local builders bringing this situation of illegal/migrants housed in the homes under construction and out in the woods to the county's attention several years ago. I believe another remark that came out of that meeting spoke to the revenue that they were pleased to be getting from these Atlanta area businesses. Builders complaints were dismissed as whining, you are correct. But oh well, a new day, and more information surfaces, so county/state/feds/ get the ball rolling...

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 05:10 pm
0
0
Hey, AC Editor, could we get

Hey, AC Editor, could we get a reprint of Barry's letter calling those local builders whinners?

Riverman1
81356
Points
Riverman1 11/10/11 - 06:03 pm
0
0
A few years ago, in the old

A few years ago, in the old forums, I wrote often about illegal workers and wondered why local authorities couldn't check to verify they were legally here. Barry Paschal answered and actually educated me that no one but the feds could do such checks. I don't think he or any of us being realists about illegal immigrants wouldn't jump at the chance to stop it with a border that can't be penetrated, but that's not going to happen.

The fallacy I see mentioned once above and sometimes voiced is the illegals do bad work. That's just not the case. They simply work faster for less money. I know too many people in construction who will tell you the same thing. Diaz couldn't have done so well with his people turning out bad work.

I know one electrical contractor who will get the Mexicans when he has to have a house wired by...like....tomorrow. Know what I mean?

Riverman1
81356
Points
Riverman1 11/10/11 - 06:10 pm
0
0
The Columbia County raid of

The Columbia County raid of the Diaz house reminds me of Richmond County's "Augusta Ink" a few years ago. Lots of media and hype that accomplished nothing.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 11/10/11 - 06:41 pm
0
0
RM, Diaz's crews did the

RM, Diaz's crews did the framing, siding, roofing, brick, block, stone, and sheetrock work for my house. There was hardly a day that went by that I wasn't out here walking through looking. The builder also walked through every day looking. It was inspected by the county at every stage as well.

Other than a few minor things that didn't meet code or I didn't like, they did a satisfactory job. They worked all day and weekends when they could too. No complaints from here, other than I knew without being told some were illegal. Usually there was only one guy on the site I could communicate with in english, and a few of them were real stereotypical looking (that gives a hint, not a conclusion).

Riverman1
81356
Points
Riverman1 11/10/11 - 06:50 pm
0
0
Vito, that's what some don't

Vito, that's what some don't want to admit. They do better work cheaper. It's simply a matter of people looking out for their own self-interests where the same product produced cheaper wins no matter what.

Cynical old woman
1090
Points
Cynical old woman 11/10/11 - 07:54 pm
0
0
What I've seen and

What I've seen and experienced is that the Diaz crews did good work, perhaps not the best but for sure good and decent quality work and quickly, too. They show up, work hard (take a lunch break aka siesta) and then they're back at it. Seven days a week or six at the least.

And AC editors...the Paschal editorial letter was in the News Times on Sunday, August 23, 2009. As Mr. Paschal so eloquently stated, " ....a hysterical reaction to such competition isn't going to make it just go away."

He was right...it didn't go away it grew and festered like a STD.

Cynical old woman
1090
Points
Cynical old woman 11/10/11 - 07:41 pm
0
0
And Riverman...the use of

And Riverman...the use of electrical workers that may not be legal is treading on thin ice. Per State law all workers yes ALL that are employed by HVAC, plumbing AND electrical MUST be just that.....employees not sub-contractors or 1099 workers. Therefore, they must have a social security number that is valid. So your electrician friend (if he is doing as you say) may be in violation of the law.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 07:54 pm
0
0
COW posted " ....a hysterical

COW posted " ....a hysterical reaction to such competition isn't going to make it just go away."... in regards to Barry Paschal's editorial on Mexican labor.

So, why blame and point the long waging finger at the other building contactors and the market place now? So much fun isn't it; being a good Pharisee, and changing those rules as we go to suit our new position.

Cynical old woman
1090
Points
Cynical old woman 11/10/11 - 08:00 pm
0
0
Finally, just as the builders

Finally, just as the builders may have wondered about the legality of the Diaz crews....I've personally eaten several times in the local Mexican restaurants (as I'm sure most of ya'll have) and wondered if the chips guy, the waiter, the bus boy, the cook were all legal. Nonetheless, I chowed down and drank up!

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/10/11 - 08:24 pm
0
0
Too bad, Cynical, you are

Too bad, Cynical, you are now under investigation. That restaurant has "Not acted alone", you were there and turned a blind eye...

Cynical old woman
1090
Points
Cynical old woman 11/10/11 - 08:31 pm
0
0
Willow, I believed my local

Willow, I believed my local government was doing their job of upholding the law. After all...I felt it was safe to assume that since the restaurant had a business license from the county that SURELY to God the county had ensured all were legal. Now you tell me I can't trust the local officials?

cgould
0
Points
cgould 11/10/11 - 11:33 pm
0
0
RT i mean willow,you sure are

RT i mean willow,you sure are defending the illegal immigrants you use on your jobs.They don't do a better job,take a look down the outside wall of one of these houses they have built,that hardeyboard siding sure doesn't look very straight,wait 3 or 4 years and see if any of it has started to fall off yet. Anyone who believes the builders didn't know about these illegals is a da## liar.sure hope diaz screwed them over by charging materials to their job for other jobs like his personal house.

JRC2024
8271
Points
JRC2024 11/11/11 - 12:22 am
0
0
cgould, the Hardiboard will

cgould, the Hardiboard will wave between the studs if the wall is not solid sheated. I do not build homes but have seen that happen with all types of siding. Contrary to what all have said, some contractors may pay the Mexicans more because of their work ethics. Those American workers on welfare should now jump at the chance to be employed but I bet they will not. Diaz's biggest problem is that he stepped on too many toes and flaunted his earnings aside from the fact that there were probably alot of his workers not paying any tax.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/11/11 - 12:34 pm
0
0
cgould, No where will you

cgould, No where will you find me saying that the laws should not be upheld, in fact, if you've read much from me, honoring the law is important to me, but so are my legitimate responsibilities.

Let's look at it this way:
The federal government, the state government and the local county government DOES NOT enforce immigration law, but a group of small local Columbia County General Contractors are to be held responsible for doing THE job that the entire government cannot or will not do? Does that really make sense to you?

Also, keep in mind, there is NO LAW requiring employers to check or verify immigration status. That part has been placed on hold until January 2012. Additionally, when subcontractors are hired, they do NOT have employer/employee status, which means the general has no responsibility over their payment of taxes. Hence, no help to the government.

Hugo Diaz has all of his stuff.. Licenses, fed I.D. tax number, checking account, and at least 5 years of his local income being reported to the federal government. There is still much for all of us to learn about his situation. It may be larger than we are all thinking anyway.

As to your argument regarding the quality of work, that happens within all groups of imperfect people. We had those problems before the Mexicans arrived. Buying a home from a well known, financially solvent, local builder with a track record for delivering service after the sale, is the public's best protection. And remembering, cheap is costly in the long run.

Your feelings are hurt over the tough state of the economy, I can hear it in your words. Everyone is struggling to keep their businesses afloat. If you are a subcontractor who has been unable to compete, I'm sorry for you. Work on a new business plan.

I am not defending the rights of illegal's, I am defending the general contractors. Big difference. I have spoken about Mexican laborer's good work ethic and why they are enjoyable to have on a job. It's a true fact... Many would benefit from taking a few lessons from them.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/11/11 - 10:28 am
0
0
And cgould, let me just be

And cgould, let me just be fair to R.T. as you and a few others have called me. I am not RT, nor am I married, related, employed or subcontracted by him. In fact, I couldn't pick him out in a line up.

You may also want to know that it is against the rules of AC to identify another poster on line.

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