Saturday, July 09, 2005


May 29, 2003


By: Jimmy Breslin
In Mexico, they look through the dust of their villages and see the sky
to the north and hear all these stories about sudden riches on the
streets of New York and they come, crawling through tunnels, fording
rivers, jumping away from rattlesnakes, going without sleep or water,
coming to New York for a boundless living, maybe as much as $6 an hour!

And somebody here cannot wait to steal anything they get. Nothing is too
small. If anything substantial comes up, they will use two hands.

This case does not go away. Eduardo Daniel Gutierrez, 18, from the
village of St. Matias Cuatchatyotla deep in the dust of central Mexico,
was working on the third floor of a building in Williamsburg that
collapsed. The third floor fell into the second and the second fell into
the first and the first went into the basement and Gutierrez fell face
first and drowned in a lake of concrete. This was on a fall day in 2000.

In October of 2001, a judge in federal court, Leo Glasser, awarded
Gutierrez's father, Daniel, $100,000 as part of a fine paid by the
convicted builder.

The father in Mexico waited for the check. He lived with no running
water and a yard full of children to clothe and feed. He waited for the
check for months and finally called a friend in New York and asked about
it, and as I was writing a book about the young man's death, I was asked.

I go over this again, as best as I can. I called Glasser, the federal
judge, and his secretary told me that he had signed off on the money in
November. That was in 2001. She referred me to a woman in another
office, who said, I remember, "Oh, you have to call Mr. Cramer." He also
was in the federal building. Mr. Cramer said I had to call Rich
Faughnan, the assistant United States attorney in charge of the
Gutierrez case. He said that the check had been sent to the public
administrator's office. I became ill. The public administrator works for
the Brooklyn Surrogate. Glasser let it go in the hands of the Brooklyn
Democratic organization, which owns the courts and makes them the most
suspicious of any government agency.

The surrogate, Michael Feinberg, is the worst of Brooklyn. The check
went to his friend, Louis Rosenthal, who is called the counsel to the
public administrator. He works in his own law office. The public has
nothing to do with him.

They love paper. The check for Gutierrez's father, in their hands, was
paper that could make a lawyer happy. Why not? A dead Mexican with a
father living in nowhere. Run it up!

It is now June of 2002. At first, Rosenthal knew nothing about such a
case as Gutierrez. Then he said that he had located the money in an
account. He had had the money for six months. One hundred and three
thousand. But he couldn't send it right away. Why? Because he couldn't
send it right away.

After being screamed at, he said the check was being sent right now,
registered mail, return receipt requested.

"I took less than my usual fee," Rosenthal said.

"What fee?"

He said he was a private attorney and charged a fee. Gutierrez's father
called from Mexico a few days later. He had no check. The Mexican
counsel called and asked about the check.

In St. Matias, Gutierrez's father inquired about the check for so long
that everybody knew about it and he heard that hoodlums and cops alike
planned to steal it from him. Finally, he reported, the check came.
Almost a year after it should have been mailed to him. The St. Matias
post office wouldn't let a mailman go out to deliver it. Nor would they
give it to Gutierrez's father at first. When they did, the local bank
wouldn't cash it because it was so big. He had to go to Mexico City. He
came back and he was building the top floor of a house his son was
dreaming of when he drowned in concrete in Brooklyn.

One night the police rushed in with guns drawn. They said Gutierrez's
father was in a counterfeit ring. Nobody had that much money legally.
The cops were trying to steal his money. But he had it in a bank. He
spent three days in jail before it got cleared up.

Yesterday afternoon, he called to say that his other son and his
son-in-law had gone over the border at Tijuana. A coyote, their word for
smuggler, had brought the two across the border to America for $2,500
each. Who knows who gets what of that money? You're crossing a border
where there are human beings on guard.

"They should be in Brooklyn tonight," Daniel Gutierrez said through an
interpreter I had on an extension.

Daniel didn't think it was unusual that his son and son-in-law would
follow his dead son to Brooklyn. It is part of the life of the poor in

I reminded him that I hadn't spoken to him since he finally received
that check. I had on the desk clips about Feinberg and Rosenthal being
investigated for taking too much money like it was theirs personal out
of some widow's small inheritance.

"How much did they take out of your check?" I asked.

"Fifteen thousand dollars."


Post a Comment

<< Home