HIS MONEY LOST AMONG SNEAKS
June 12, 2002
HIS MONEY LOST AMONG SNEAKS
By: Jimmy Breslin
Eduardo Daniel Gutierrez was an 18-year-old from St. Matias, a village
in the dust outside of Cholulu in Mexico, who drowned in concrete in a
building collapse in Williamsburg in 2000.
Last October, a judge in federal court, Leo Glasser, awarded Gutierrez'
father, Eduardo Daniel, $100,000 as part of a fine paid by the convicted
Either the judge didn't follow through or the people working in federal
court don't do anything.
The money never was sent to Eduardo Daniel, who lives in poorest Mexico
with no running water and too many to feed and clothe. For seven months,
the money has been somewhere in the Brooklyn legal system. After all
this waiting, Daniel thinks they are stealing it from him.
I guess it was in February when a friend of Daniel's told me, "Daniel
called me. He has no money. I called the judge. They told me that the
check is on the judge's desk. He just has to sign it. There is no other
family. An aunt in Jersey. Nobody else."
Two weeks ago, I ran into Eduardo's friend again and I was told, "The
check is still on the judge's desk. The public administrator or something."
"The public administrator."
Suddenly, the anger was overwhelming. I had written columns and a book
about Gutierrez drowning in concrete. I've been on to other things. Now
I returned. The public administrator is part of the surrogate court and
that is a state court. That a check from a federal judge was in a state
office set off a burglar alarm. This is Brooklyn, with a Democratic
Party whose best people have hands that can work a pizza oven without
I called Glasser, the federal judge, and his secretary told me the judge
had signed off on the money in November. She referred me to a Mrs.
Gilbert in another office. Who said, "Oh, you have to call Mr. Cramer."
He also was in the federal building. He said that I had to call Rich
Faughnan, the assistant United States attorney in charge of the case.
He told me that the check had been sent to the public administrator's
"Why? They steal!"
He said that he wasn't sure and would get back to me. I called the
public administrator, Marietta Small. Her secretary said, "She is busy."
I regarded all this as a veteran bureaucracy, people born to slip and
slide. Only a scream job gets a reaction. "I'm going to the district
attorney!" I shouted, by way of opening. This is what anyone within
reading distance of this should do when dealing with furtive city
government. Scream, shriek, shout.
The public administrator, Marietta Small, got on the phone. She said
that she knew nothing about it, but would look. I then received a call
from Louis Rosenthal, who identified himself as counsel for the public
administrator. He didn't know anything about such a case. "Please, sir."
He said that about 20 times as I yelled. "Somebody is stealing," I answered.
If this sounds like a wild charge to you, then you are a rank sucker.
These people had the money of a family in deep need. They had it for
half a year now. Brooklyn clubhouse bums must be cutting up the money.
Why not? He's only a Mexican who can do nothing. And I should understand
the workings of the public administrator's office.
The trouble is, I do. I will neither listen nor read because I don't
trust them as far as I can throw the Flatiron Building.
Rosenthal, the "sir" man, said that he would check this matter
immediately. I hung up exhausted. Shouting is necessary, but it wrings
That was on a Friday. On my next call he said he had located the money
in an account. Magic! One hundred and three thousand. But he couldn't
send it right away.
"Please, sir, we have rules we must follow."
"You've had the money for six months. You're trying to wait that Mexican
out so you can take it."
"Please, sir. We had to make sure that the father was the next of kin.
We were told that there is a wife and two children."
I say he made that up on the spot. At 18, poor Gutierrez had a
girlfriend in Texas, and he never saw her and was too shy to speak to
her much on the phone.
He broke up my shouts to say he was straightening this out.
On Friday, he said that the checks had been sent by registered mail,
return receipt requested.
Why would I believe him? These people are capable of coming up with a
postman who returns to sender. And then he wanted me to be grateful. He
said that as Gutierrez had a civil suit going on, he could have followed
his normal rule and withheld payment until the other case was settled.
This guy was telling me that he almost held up the check for years.
I told him that this was a monstrous lie, that I had been in the room
when Glasser, the federal judge, warned that no lawyer was to touch the
"Yes, that is why we sent the checks out so quickly," lawyer "Sir"
Rosenthal said. "Why, I even took less than my usual fee from the money."
"You took what?"
"I am a private attorney. I charge a fee."
"You're not in the public administrator's office?"
"I am a private attorney. I am counsel to the public administrator."
"You snatched money over the body of that kid?"
All I could think of was Gutierrez, his lungs screaming for air in pitch
black under the surface of wet concrete. And here was some guy in an
office playing with his money.
Because of this, I started my week off by writing to an assistant
district attorney in Brooklyn named Kelly, who handles swindles of the
old and unable.
And also to the chief judge of the state, Judith Kaye, who is supposed
to protect the public from rodents who creep up to the death benefits of
a young man who drowned in concrete and left a family whose running
water comes from a well that sits in dust.