Pedro, Pedro, Pedro. U.S. customs took $59,000 from Pedro Zapeta. To be honest though, it wasn’t all his money. When the government attempted to give him some of his money, he refused to accept it. Now this mess has evolved and you and I are paying for it.
Pedro Zapeta worked hard for three years, saving all his money until he had enough to attempt to sneak it across the border, out of the United States. Unfortunately for Pedro, he decided to leave the U.S. on an airplane, which I’m positive is not the way he got into the U.S. several years ago.
Zapeta, who speaks no English, said he didn’t know he was running afoul of U.S. law by failing to declare he was carrying more than $10,000 with him. Anyone entering or leaving the country with more than $10,000 has to fill out a one-page form declaring the money to U.S. customs.Pedro also apparently wasn’t aware of other laws, like paying taxes. Zapeta earned $5.50 an hour at most of the places where he washed dishes. When he learned to do more, he got a 25-cent raise.
Robert Gershman, one of Zapeta’s attorneys, said federal prosecutors later offered his client a deal: He could take $10,000 of the original cash seized, plus $9,000 in donations as long as he didn’t talk publicly and left the country immediately.
According to Gershman, the Internal Revenue Service wants access to cash that has been donated to Pedro in order to cover taxes on the donations and on the money Zapeta made as a dishwasher. Zapeta admits he never paid taxes. Wow… what a surprise, don’t you think?
On Wednesday, Zapeta went to immigration court and got more bad news. The judge gave the dishwasher until the end of January to leave the country on his own. He’s unlikely to see a penny of his money.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Zapeta was given official status in the United States — voluntary departure — and a signed order from a judge. For the first time, he can work legally in the U.S.
By the end of January, Zapeta may be able to earn enough money to pay for a one-way ticket home so the U.S. government, which seized his $59,000, doesn’t have to do so.