A lesson learned? Puerto Rican workers claim exploitation

Savannah Vasquez

An advertisement in the Puerto Rican newspaper, El Nuevo Dia announced immediate job openings in Florida paying $9 to $18 per hour; all job seekers needed to do was provide flights and first months rent, and the rest would be covered.

“Are you ready to work in The United States? Get out of Puerto Rico with a job and housing,” the advertisement reads. “BullsEye Jobs is a U.S. employer specializing in relocated labor to U.S., providing work and careers in hotels, restaurants, fast food, and it is looking for employees to start working immediately. Long term jobs, no temporary jobs.”

Jason Piñeiro, of San Juan, Puerto Rico replied to the ad, and was placed in a Destin restaurant job in August of 2014. He arrived in Pensacola and after two nights spent in the airport and finally made it to his Destin job placement by way of a local representative for the company. The first few months went by smoothly, and Piñeiro met five other Puerto Rican BullsEye employees all grouped in two apartments and placed in  Destin area McDonalds.

However, four months into his job contract, Piñeiro told The Log he discovered discrepancies in what he was promised, and what was actually taking place and the local BullsEye representative that was so friendly in the beginning is missing in action.

“The lease for the apartment is an agreement that they will pay our rent, but since November they were not able to pay,” Piñeiro said of a BullsEye Job agreement he signed. “They were going to take it out of my paycheck, $150 per pay check and they made us sign a loan agreement that they will take out $45 per paycheck to cover the first month’s rent. They are taking the money, but they are not paying.”

Piñeiro presented The Log with documents that he signed at the beginning of his employment with BullsEye Jobs Inc., including loan agreements, and sub-lease agreements that specify the amounts that would be debited each month either from his paycheck or directly out of his bank account. He also presented forms depicting unpaid lease notices from his apartment complex addressed to BullsEye Jobs Inc.

The Log reached out to BullsEye Jobs Inc., and received a response from Public Relations Director Laura Marzano. She stated that Piñeiro had indeed signed a rental contract allowing the company to collect rent funds from his debit account and the funds were not sufficient for the month of December. The company then notified Piñeiro that his lease would be terminated by the end of the month.

“The company had informed Jason that the lease was not going to be renewed when it expired on December 31,” said Marzano. “Most occupants had already moved out. Jason was living in a condo that cost the company approximately $1,800 per month, and he was paying approximately $300 per month. The company did not want to subsidize beyond the lease expiration.”

She further stated that the response BullsEye received from Piñeiro was hostile.

“The company offered to move Jason to other employee housing, and offered to pay all his expenses for the move,” she said. “Instead, Jason sent an email on December 22, saying he was moving out of  the housing and had found a place on his own. He asked that his debit card not be debited for December rent, and it was not. He has not paid any December rent.”

Piñeiro is not the only BullsEye employee with a complaint.

Juan Soto was another BullsEye employee who worked at the Miramar Beach McDonald’s until he quit last month. He now works in construction and said he is the only one from the group that has terminated his job placement and lease agreement.

When asked why he chose to quit Soto replied, “They were stealing my money. I got here in November and got my first paycheck on December 26, and now am waiting to see if I get paid again. I'm supposed to get paid today and I’m waiting to see if they do,” he said last week.

Past Issues

A search on the Nevada Secretary of State website revealed that the Nevada-based company, BullsEye Jobs.Com Inc, is registered under the name David C. Marzano, but dissolved in August of 2009. A further internet search showed a total of 21 companies have been listed under Marzano’s name, covering 10 states and 17 different cities spanning the past 25 years. One such business was Coastal Burgers Inc., with the physical address of 4250 Jade Loop in Destin. The business has been listed as inactive since September of 2013.

Questions about Marzano and his business dealings were written about in a newspaper article dating back to 2001.

According to The Baltimore Sun article, Marzano was indicted and placed under investigation by federal authorities on allegations that he was illegally transporting and concealing foreign workers. The article stated that Marzano ran the business, Global Staffing of Atlanta out of his Georgia home, and had, “a history of skirting immigration laws to import nearly 4,000 foreign workers and students under a federal visa program to work in hotels and resorts across the country.”

Marzano was eventually found guilty to the a charge of conspiring to unlawfully encourage and induce aliens to reside in the United States and served a 15-month jail sentence in 2002, according to the Baltimore Sun. Today, Marzano’s companies no longer recruit internationally as Laura Marzano stated, “We don't recruit from other countries, only domestically in the U.S. and its territories and commonwealths.”

In reference to Piñeiro’s complaints, David Marzano told The Log in an email that he is aware of the allegations made against his company and that they’ve been reviewed on multiple occasions. He said the company has “gone to great lengths” to explain the discrepancies to Piñeiro in both Spanish and English.

“We have all the necessary documents and more importantly accounting demonstrating that he has not paid the rent he owes us, nor was he charged for time he in fact lived in the housing,” he wrote. “I appreciate your understanding and am confident you’ll see that this individual was treated fairly.”

What’s Next?

Laura Marzano stressed that the company has no qualms with Piñeiro and hopes all of the misunderstandings have been worked out.

“He’s a good employee at McDonald’s, and bottom line we just want him to have a gainful employment and a better life,” she said. “We wish him success in that.”

However, Piñeiro still feels he and his fellow employees are being exploited by BullsEye Jobs.

 “At that moment none of us read it thoroughly,” Piñeiro said of the documents he and the others signed.“None of us were aware of the details, because here’s the detail that no one has considered; we had a lease contract with them but they had a lease contract with Alexan-Henderson Beach and Legacy on the Bay.”

When asked if the group has filed a police report on the matter, Piñeiro said so far they have not out of the belief that they will not be helped.

“The officers cannot do anything about this because it is a legal matter,” he said. “I called the Legal Services of North Florida but they don’t answer my calls.”

However, Public Information Officer Michele Nicholson of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office told The Log this is a case her agency is interested in.

“We absolutely investigate cases like this,” Nicholson said. “We have done cases like this before. They are not simple, if this is a human trafficking case. At some point, depending on what they find, it could go federal.”

The Log also contacted Costa Enterprises, the company that owns Destin area McDonald’s, to inquire as to how such an employment contract works.

  “The answer is, in some cases, as it’s true in my firm in Pensacola, the actual check comes from an H.R. firm,” said Dick Appleyard, who supervises advertising and marketing for Costa Enterprises. “In the case of the Costas and McDonald’s, it’s this employment company; that’s who issues the checks to them. It’s really an issue between David C. Marzano and them.”

 “It’s pretty similar to what you would have with any labor company,” said David Costa, owner of Costa Enterprises. “The company hires employees and will place them in a job, and they will have a contract with that employee. For these employees, the company BullsEye Jobs brings them in, gives them housing, and we pay BullsEye for the hours their employees work.”

Costa told The Log that he has employed through BullsEye Jobs for the past couple of years and has never had complaints from their employees. However, he said that if concerns of unfair treatment are brought up by anyone working in his establishments he personally wants to be a part of resolving the issues.

“If the employees are concerned that they are not getting answered, they can call and we’ll work with them,” said Costa. “We want to try to help solve the issues of the people, we never want anyone working in our buildings to be mistreated.”

As of Friday, Pineiro had received a paycheck from BullsEye Jobs Inc. He told The Log his main concern moving forward is to shed light on his experiences with the company.

“My main purpose is that the Puerto Rican people know what is going on once they come over here,” he said. “They paint it very nice, that they have everything close by, but that is a lie because now they are recruiting people from other states, and those other states don’t know what is going on with this company and their background. We are U.S. citizens. I want the locals to be aware of what is going on. This situation has to stop.”