Hurricane Irma left behind massive piles of debris throughout South Florida and many people signed on to help clean it all up hoping to make a quick buck. Juan Mirabal was one of them. He and his wife, Kenia, called NBC 6 Responds after he worked long days cleaning up debris and was left waiting for his money.
“We trusted the work,” Kenia Mirabal said, adding they spent hundreds of dollars buying a trailer for the job.
Kenia, Juan and several others reached out, hoping NBC 6 Responds could help them find out when they would get the thousands of dollars they say they were promised. Carlos Rodriguez said he was owed close to $6,000 and Edgardo Perez believed his tally was close to $30,000.
All three men said they were hired by the same person – a guy they only knew as “Elio”. Their names were not on any of the county or city contracts for debris cleanup. All they had were dozens of load tickets – proof, they said, that they hauled debris and dropped it off at different collection sites.
“It’s money hard worked,” Kenia said. “I mean everybody here works for bills.”
They man they knew as “Elio” told NBC 6 Responds by phone he planned to pay the men as soon as he gets paid by the company that hired him. When our team connected with the company, we talked to a woman claiming to be the owner’s wife.
A few days later, Juan and Carlos received most of their money, totaling more than $16,000. Edgardo got a check, too, but only a fraction of what he thought he was owed. So he filed a wage theft complaint with Miami-Dade County in January. The company he listed in his complaint to the county said it had “…no record of having a subcontractor by the name of Edgardo Perez” and that the tickets he turned in were certified under “ERA/New Life Holdings” which “has been paid for these tickets.”
State records show a company named “Era Enterprises Group” registered to Elio. He didn’t come to the door when our team stopped by his house. He also stopped answering our calls and text messages.
Edgardo, meanwhile, continues to look for answers, hoping to one day get paid so he can return to Puerto Rico. He lost his grandmother during Hurricane Maria and said his family on the island was hit hard by that storm. He was hoping to use some of that money to help them.
North Miami and Miami-Dade County – the areas where the men say they worked – told NBC 6 Responds they won’t make direct payments to any subcontractors. The county also said they will analyze how debris removal was handled during Irma to see if any changes should be made the next time they solicit new contracts.