Hundreds of members of the Yakama Nation tribe were offered $40-an-hour jobs related to the Gulf oil spill as well as room and board. To participate, the prospective employees had to provide their names, addresses and social security numbers.
But the nearly 800 members of the Yakama Nation tribe in Central Washington, who signed up for the gig, have learned that the offer was a scam, including a single mother who handed her children over to relatives to take the job.
Buses that were supposed to pick up workers last week and take them to Louisiana and Florida, never arrived. Some of the workers had quit their lower-paying jobs when they heard about the opportunity.
Now the Washington Attorney General, Better Business Bureau and leaders of the Yakama Nation are investigating a man named Christino Rosado, Jr., who told the Better Business Bureaus that he and his father, Christino Rosado, Sr., were behind the operation. He claimed that their El Paso, TX business – Seasonal Fruit Juice, Inc. – would be contracting with British Petroleum to help with the oil cleanup.
Zan Deery, regional investigator for the BBB that services Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana, told Consumer Ally that she's been unable to link Rosado to BP. She said he couldn't provide any proof of a contract with BP when she asked for one. He told her the contract was being revised.
The day before buses were supposed to leave, Deery said Rosado asked her: "You have any advice how we can get insurance?"
"I said, 'Mr. Rosado, I'm ready to quit my job and do this. Do you realize what you're saying is really too good to be true?'"
Tony Odone, a spokesperson for BP in Houston, said he couldn't comment on a specific case, but added that any jobs offered in the oil clean-up effort have to go through proper channels.
"Any employment is being done through recognized agencies," Odone told Consumer Ally. "I think one should check a little bit more with who he's got contracts with. We certainly haven't done anything through any individual."
Consumer Ally has left several message for Rosado but has been unable to reach him.
Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission warned about scams related to the Gulf oil spill.
Harry Smiskin, chairman of Yakama Nation, said his tribe's criminal investigation division is working with the FBI. He's concerned about the confidential information Rosado obtained.
The Yakama Nation has 10,200 members. Investigators said about 500 members had signed up to work for Rosado. On Friday, however, Smiskin said as many as 800 members could be involved. He also said he heard that Rosado had planned to visit another reservation north of the Yakama Reservation, but wasn't sure if Rosado showed up there.
"It's affected our tribal membership very adversely," Smiskin said. "We're concerned about the long-term effects this is going to have. We hate for anyone to be victimized."
Rosado handed out fliers and also posted them in the casinos. He told some people he would fly them to Louisiana or Florida to do the work and provide three meals a day, Smiskin said.
Some of the victims who quit their jobs were earning wages between $10 and $20 an hour. Smiskin said one person gave up a rental home and put all household items in storage to go on the trip.
This isn't the first time Rosado has been accused of misleading a community. The Oregonian has written about Rosado and his promise to create 300 jobs in Oregon City by opening a fruit-juice factory in a building he would renovate. Those plans also never materialized.
Rosado's El Paso company, Seasonal Fruit Juice, Inc., which also did business as Go Fish and Tri Tech Corporation, dissolved in 2007, Deery said.
She said Rosado preyed on a community that's been devastated by the economic downturn.
"He spoke to me like he was going to be a knight in shining armor for these people," she said.
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