Perez Arrest Highlights Construction Work Issues
Photo: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE -- A man accused of killing a beloved grandmother was in Omaha illegally for months. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 19-year-old Sergio Perez. Many wonder how he got paid to work on Omaha roofs.
Perez, also known as Sergio Arciniega has pleaded not guilty to killing 93-year-old Louise Sollowin in July. A photo from his Facebook page shows Perez working on a Southwest Omaha roof in June. Authorities say he worked as a roofer, and is an illegal immigrant. KMTV Action 3 News exclusively tracked down the contractor, who said he hired a subcontractor. That subcontractor told us he contracted out the work to a Texas firm. That subcontractor confirmed he hired Perez, when he met him at a local motel.
Melissa Rodriguez is the Labor Law Specialist with the Nebraska Department of Labor she says they discourage subcontractors from paying another sub to do the work. But some subcontractors are just employees called subs and sometimes it's done to avoid paying taxes, insurance, and workers comp. Plus they can be paid a lot less than what the job was bid for. Nebraska requires all contractors and subs to be registered. The group that hired Perez, Alfredo Espinoza Roofing from San Antonio, TX, wasn't registered with the department of labor.
"It can go quite far, we've seen where it actually goes down to 4th and 5th tier subs,” Rodriguez explained. “It's frustrating because it's easy to see how it affects everybody in the entire state, taxpayers, employers who are doing it the right way, everybody."
A person with Alfredo Espinoza Roofing said they didn't check Perez' documentation because they knew he had relatives in Omaha, and figured he was from the area. State Senator Brad Ashford says preventing this from happening is not an easy fix.
"You need two things basically; both of them are really federal. One is much more protection on the border and some sort of work system so contractors can check who they employing," Ashford described.
The Texas roofer says Perez worked for them for 2-3 days. It's unclear how many other companies he worked for.
Nebraska requires contractors to use E-Verify to make sure an employee has legal documentation. One labor attorney tells KTMV Action 3 News that they've seen people forge I-9 documents to get through the E-Verify system.
Rodriguez recommends that before you sign anything or pay any money make sure that the company you're hiring is actually the company that's going to do the work.