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Avella calls attention to scam

“Trabajos, trabajadores,” a man in a black beanie and jacket shouted in front of a nondescript door at 85−14 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, beckoning to Latino men to come upstairs to find jobs.

But prospective workers who heed the call pay money out of pocket for false leads, a workers advocate group and City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) said last Thursday.

The company, People Helping People, like several others on this stretch of Roosevelt, charges clients $120 for the address of a business looking for work, sometimes a construction company, sometimes a restaurant.

When the prospective worker arrives, he finds either it is a bogus address or the company does not need work, activists said.

“They’re ripping off recent immigrants, mostly Latinos,” Avella said at a news conference in front of the location. “This is an absolute disgrace, but it’s even worse in this economic situation when people will do anything.”

The barker standing outside the unmarked door vanished when Avella and labor advocates began to gather. The business has no listed phone number.

Alonso Martinez, 43, of Jackson Heights, said he was solicited a month ago by a barker standing outside the office on Roosevelt Avenue.

“They sent me to a restaurant in Manhattan, but when I got there, they told me there was no work,” he said through an interpreter.

Daniel Vila, a coordinator with the Sisa Pakari Labor Center, said the group has confronted the management, but they refuse to refund the finders’ fees.

“We’ve been here already twice,” he said. “They just keep operating.”

Avella said he would reach out to the city Department of Consumer Affairs, which has an ongoing investigation into this practice. He also called on state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown to look into the matter.

Ecuadorian immigrant Jose Guaman, 32, of Corona, said he was sent to a construction site, but when he arrived, the gates were closed.

Mesias Pani, 38, of Manhattan, said he and fellow prospective workers just want their money back.

“What’s important is that we are getting help,” he said. “We thought that this was going to be left up in the air.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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